Years ago I was dating this guy and made the mistake of saying that I had two great loves in life. The mistake was that he thought that he was one of them. Fortunately we are still friends. I attribute this to the fact that at the time he was one of my best friends in the world. Even though I did not want to date him anymore (Well, not under those circumstances at least), I was not willing to give up the friendship we had before we started dating. I like to think that we have evolved (Maybe we have devolved.) because we have finally returned to that point at which we feel comfortable speaking to each other about our dating lives. It only took us ten years to reach this point. And so once more, I have the friend that I once knew.
But this is about love. My first love has always been books. My mom would tuck me into bed and I would have whatever book I was reading tucked under the pillow along with a flashlight. Now some of you might think this is perfectly normal. However, I was doing this at age seven. When I was younger, my mom would send me to my room as a punishment. She stopped doing this because she quickly discovered that I was perfectly content to do so. My room was filled with books that I was longing to read. Books are still important to me. They are things of respect. So much so that I feel that it is like sacrilege to break the spine. This made me well-prepared for my time working in bookstores in college. One of the perks of working in a bookstore is that you are allowed to check out anything from the store as long as it comes back in "sellable" condition. This means that you cannot break the spine. Thank goodness I had had years of practice in this area. So if you break the spine, or even worse dog ear the pages, you will no longer be allowed to borrow my books.
Now we finally get to my second love -- music. In some ways it fits with my first. Song lyrics at their best are poetry. One of my students recently asked me if I liked rap. I told her to guess. She, correctly, decided that I did. She then asked if I liked country. She was shocked when I told her, "Some."
So my muscial preferences run the full gamut as far as genre is concerned. Some of my all-time fave musicians are Patsy Cline, Sting (OK. Not so much as a musician but as a lyricist.), and Stan Getz. Oh. So I also love Barry Manilow, Peter Gabriel, Billy Joel, Marvin Gaye, Thomas Dolby, Oingo Boingo (Danny Elfman is a king.), early Hall & Oates, Dave Brubeck (Can we say Disney and Peanuts?), Steely Dan (Yes, I know they are really only two guys with a bunch of high quality studio musicians.), and Jill Scott. These are folks -- who if they were all still living -- I'd buy their albums. Well, if you are going to mention dead musicians, you may as well throw in Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, and Bill Withers.
The first stuff I remember from growing up was Sly and Bill Withers. My best friend and I would sit around at nursery school singing "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Hot Fun in the Summertime." At home I would listen to my parents's Motown and Atlantic collection. At the time I had a babysitter who would throw James Brown onto the stereo as soon as my parents left. She taught me how to do the Funky Chicken. I sometimes wonder what became of her since her family moved when I was around 7 or 8. (My memory of home is foggy around that time since my parents were starting to break up. I have realized as an adult that I have little memory of home at that time. The majority of memories from then center around school.) I also remember another babysitter from that time period who had the obligatory poster of Angela Davis in her bedroom.
During this same period, I went to a childcare provider after school. This woman did not like people of color -- unless they were writing a check to her. I did not share this information with my mom until I was about to start fifth grade. This woman and her husband had given birth to two boys. They then adopted four girls. The two older girls were the ones who actually watched us most of the time. They introduced us to Aerosmith, the Stones, and Steely Dan. Well, there were also a few pop hits mixed in as well -- like "Wildfire."
After my parents divorced, my dad and I would go to Leopold's once a month. (The store no longer exists but each time I walk past the old site, I feel a little tug at my heart.) Leopold's was known for two things -- one of the best jazz collections in the Bay Area and the place for DJs to shop. My dad has always been a jazz fan, mostly vocals. After some time I realized that my generous dad would not notice if I slipped a few extra LPs into his purchasing stack. And thus started my music collection.
By the time I got to college, my monthly budget included $60 for music. This is why I cannot part with my vinyl. I often labored over each choice, only buying those things that I thought were really important to me. Since my tastes, at times, were "cutting edge," I had a tendency to buy stuff from bands that no one had heard of at the time. This is part of my sentimental connection to my music.
The other part stems from the fact that I tend to associate music with either specific people in my life or to specific events. "Bust A Move" will always be Jade's song. Just as I cannot listen to Prince without thinking of Emerald. (Before we would head out on Friday nights in college, she would blast whatever Prince songs were appealing to her at the time.) And I can't listen to Celia Cruz without thinking of my mother.
I have read that the sense of smell is the strongest sensory memory. I'm willing to argue that sound is the second strongest.