Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve had an intense relationship with music. And while a brief rendezvous with piano lessons and the marching band enabled me to understand technical ideas like key changes, harmony, and pitch, my love of music has mostly developed strictly with me in the role as devoted listener and avid fan.
My parents turned me on to the oldies right away. I fondly remember sunny drives to my grandma’s house while my dad blasted Chicago, Three Dog Night, and Blood, Sweat, and Tears with the windows down. My mom taught me about Motown, particularly Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and The Temptations while cooking dinner. These were family bonding experiences.
However, my mom also kept up with current music of the time, and the ‘80s teemed with breakout artists whose records my mother brought home on a regular basis. Whitney, Michael, Madonna, Lionel… I once ripped a hole in our new couch from attempting to literally dance on the ceiling. I soaked up every last dribble that generation provided me, and even today, I have an impressive playlist on my iPod full of songs from that first great decade of my life.
Throughout high school, I was still enchanted with music: collecting, sharing, exploring. Late at night, I tuned in to “big city” radio stations only audible during rainstorms, praying I pressed the record button at the right moment. I was the queen of the mixed tape, carefully considering theme, order, and audience. I loved when I stumbled upon a “deep cut,” one of those songs that no one else knew about; therefore, it was my secret to call upon when I needed it.
In college, I became further interested in finding obscure music. I searched for those under-the-radar bands on which I could lay claim, like an astronaut planting a flag in relatively undiscovered territory. I relied mainly on friends to pass on unique band names to me, like passwords among members of an exclusive club. We relished the fleeting moments granted to us right before our favorite nobodies became anything but. It was our way to showcase some originality.
After I graduated from college, I met a guy named Andy who was one of the biggest music junkies I’d ever known. His enthusiasm was unmeasured and contagious. He wasted his paychecks on the new releases, he owned more concert tees than he could possibly wear, and he scoured the Internet for any and all information about his favorite bands. He always passed his research on to me: interview links, free songs, ticket sales, song lyrics, album reviews, and CD artwork. He lived and breathed music; it was his passion, just like me. There is a scene in Garden State where Natalie Portman puts headphones on Zach Braff and claims that the song coming through will change his life. That was Andy on a daily basis.
Three months ago, I learned that Andy was involved in a tragic accident, and he died. He wasn’t even thirty years old. With his death, I feel as though my connection with music is forever changed. Songs have new meaning, heightened importance. My collection of gifted CDs is now a prized possession. Concert outings have been raised to a spiritual level.
I believe that music enhances memories. I believe music is a comfort. I believe music is an important identity tag. I believe music allows us to live life to the fullest. And now I believe that music can serve as an acceptable tribute to those that have left us too soon when our own words can’t nearly describe what’s gone.