Musical Memories

“The last thing that anyone forgets, even if they have Alzheimer’s, is the music they loved when they were 12 to 14 years old.”

–Meredith Born

In ten minutes, make a list of songs that evoke a particular time and place in your life. Include family songs, popular songs, forbidden songs, traditional songs, camp songs, religious songs, jingles, songs you listened to on record players, transistor radios, 8-tracks, cassette players, CD players, or Ipods.

Include the first music that grabbed you as a young person–the songs you listened to over and over hundreds of times, the songs you fell in love to, the songs that made you cry. Your personal anthems. Make your list as broad and varied as possible.

If you don’t remember the title of the specific song, write the name of the album or the artist. Or write out a line from the song that you remember.

When you’re done, choose one song from your list tell the story of who you were when you sang (or knew or heard) that song.

Feel free to post your list or your story….or both. Think of it as a little mini musical autobiography.


  1. says

    My list:

    The Grey Goose
    The Titanic
    If I Had a Hammer
    This Land is Your Land
    Inna Gadda Davida
    Oh the Deacon Went Down in the Cellar to Pray
    When You’re Down and Troubled
    Tea for the Tillerman
    I Want to Hold Your Hand
    I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
    Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?
    Old Hiram’s Goat
    I Want to Eat 8 Apples and Bananas
    Make New Friends (but keep the old)
    You’ve Got a Friend
    Under the Boardwalk
    Michele, Ma belle
    We are Family
    Somewhere Over the Rainbow
    My Girl
    Wheels on the Bus
    Hey, hey we’re the monkeys
    Say a Little Prayer for Me
    Our House
    Leaving on a Jet Plane
    Yellow Submarine
    You Really Got Me
    Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
    Songs in the Key of Life
    The Circle Game
    Lady Madonna
    Janis Joplin
    Jimi Hendrix
    Peter and the Wolf
    Tommy by the Who
    Liverpool Lullaby
    I Gotta Crow
    White Rabbit
    Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
    The Jets Song from West Side Story
    Hello Deli (mad magazine parady)
    Song of the Soul by Chris Williamson
    The Flintstones theme song…”flintstone, meet the flintstones…”
    Helplessly Hoping
    Paint it Black
    The Hora
    Arti (from the ashram)
    Dona, Dona
    Imagine My Surprise by Holly Near
    House of the Rising Sun
    Sexual Healing and Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye
    Tracy Chapman
    Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
    Stop In the Name of Love
    Sunrise, Sunset
    The White Album
    Holly Near
    Indigo Girls
    We are Family
    Alice’s Restaurant

  2. Sunny Shaw says

    Music is a safety net – a hold-on-and-sustain-you constant in my life. I’ve read thousands of books and can name my two favorites as well as my favorite human author. Music is not as easy.

    From lullabies to hymns, classical to pop, alternative to rock, heavy metal, blues, jazz, opera, symphony, country, folk, birdsong and wind melodies; I wake up every morning with something playing on the stereo in my head. I hear music in color. I read music in color.

    Making a list would be impossible if it could not somehow be narrowed down and the only criteria I’ve come up with is “Do I Love Every Song on this Album?”.

    There are many exceptions (songs only) – here are a few of those:

    “Brown-eyed Girl” – for Annika from the moment she was born.

    Tchaikovsky’s “the Seasons” – which my piano teacher said was too difficult for me but I mastered and memorized it (yes, the whole thing!) and which in second grade was the downfall of my concert pianist aspirations.

    “Southern Cross” – before Karaoke. My sister and I in front of the mirror with hairbrush microphones.

    “King of the Road” – my brother (4 years old at the time) spontaneously sang it during Sunday School (‘Ain’t got no cigarettes’).

    “Washed by the Water” (NeedToBreathe) – my anthem for the past 2 years.

    “The River” (Joni Mitchell) – my dirge for the past 2 years.

    My list of I-Love-Every-Song Albums (nothing in chronological order):

    1. Every country song/album/artist from the 50’s through the 70’s. I hated country music growing up but I know every verse of all these songs. I surprise myself. The first time I thought my mother was cool was when I came home to hear the stereo playing “Hey Jude”. The only pop she ever bought was that 45.

    2. Led Zeppelin “Physical Graffiti”

    3. Joni Mitchell “The Hissing of Summer Lawns”

    4. Elton John “Blue Moves”

    5. 10CC “Bloody Tourists”

    6. Every hymn ever written.

    7. Jackson Browne (all)

    8. Neil Young (all)

    9. J.S. Bach (all, especially cantatas)

    10. Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Works Vol I and II)

    11. James Taylor (all)

    12. Bonnie Raitt “Luck of the Draw”

    13. Beethoven (all)

    14. Simon & Garfunkel (all)

    15. Queen (most)

    16. Kansas (most)

    17. Sarah McLaughlin (all)

    18. Counting Crows (all)

    19. David Gray “White Ladder”

    20. Liberated Wailing Wall (all)

    21. Pavarotti (all)

    22. Jack Johnson “Brushfire Fairytales”

    23. Coldplay “A Rush of Blood to the Head” (easiest/hardest piano songs I’ve ever played)

    24. Daniel Ash “Love and Rockets”

    25. Staind (all)

    26. Pink Floyd (all but especially “the Final Cut”)

    27. Steely Dan (all)

    Ok, ten minutes was up 5 minutes ago. I have no discipline when it comes to music. And all of these have stories.

  3. Elizabeth Sharp says

    1. Disco music at 2 am in the tropics (70-80’s) music, ages 10-15
    2. Mornining Praise Music from Campus Students for devotions
    a) Today is the day that the lord has made
    b) jesus is Alive
    c) etc
    3). Lady of Shallot – Lorenna Mckeenit (college)
    4). Country love songs/life songs (high school)
    5). Adult (Variety- hip-hop (fun), Celtic- Oprah (romantic), Rock Music (angry)
    6) Apologize by One Republic (brings up up so many different emotions)
    – 2007-current.

  4. Joanne James says


    Twelve years old, WNDR on A.M. radio. Every week Casey Casem’s Top 40. Keeping lists of the songs. Spending 50 cents on a 45 at Dots Drugstore. One afternoon in winter I’m standing in my bedroom and Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” comes on. Thin light filters through the high narrow windows of the small ranch house on Bear Road. It feels like the world stands still. Suddenly, when I hear this music, the voice of Carly Simon, I feel pure happiness. Everything’s in it’s place. I will go on now to find a beautiful life. I’ll travel and be a writer. I’ll follow my imagination. I am perfect just the way I am. “You walked into the party, like you were walkin’ onto a yacht” I am blameless and content in my room with the bunk beds I share with my sister. My small GE transistor radio because everything is from GE where both my parents will work forty years in the plant down the road. Right now I am solo. Not a sister, daughter, friend. It’s just me alone in a resonant universe with some kind of pop music that feels like pure heaven. This is before I turn thirteen and the hell of middle school when my mother won’t let me shave my legs and I am the only girl in school who has to wear peds not panty hose. This was before the betrayals and confusion. Before the day I lose Tracy Wood and Wilma Green calls me queer. Neither one of them will ever speak to me again in this lifetime. I remember that moment at twelve and the sound of “You’re So Vain” as a highlight in the happiest moments of my life. It’s what got me through being a teenager still believing in myself. Unique, hopeful, worthy.

    • says

      Joanne, I sure remember, “You’re So Vain.” Thanks for reminding me….your piece was vivid and evocative. I was there with you and that little transistor radio.

  5. vickie says

    Looking Glass – Brandi
    Harry Chapin – Taxi
    The Carpenters – Rainy Days and Mondays
    Carol King – Tapestry, Nightingale
    Carly Simon- Thats the way it should be
    Janis Ian – Seventeen
    Niel Sadaka – Laughter in the Rain
    John Denver – Annies Song
    Neil Young – Old Man
    Jim Croce – Time In A Bottle
    Bread – Diary , Aubrey

    Sitting in my room transistor radio to my ear, these were moments of pure joy, free from that awkward sensation that came at the hands of perversion. I no longer fit in with those of my age and still not a women ,though I was now painfully aware of their secrets. Isolated and alone, lost in the distraction of confused feelings and profound sadness,aching to be heard and rescued ,I found my only solace in music. I felt that in this one place I was understood , the words of each song expressing all those secret feelings I held so deeply. Even now music is one of the few things that seems to alleviate my depression, when I can’t focus, the words seem to be able to hold my attention and I am again able to escape if only for a short time.

  6. Julia says

    After reading the lists posted, I wanted to add more songs to my list. These are not necessarily in order. I “held” this promp in my heart for several weeks before writing it down…so many memories and deep feeling surfaced.

    Sister Golden Hair
    Red Red Robin
    Love Child
    I’m Your Captain
    Close to You
    Jesus is Just Alright With Me
    Maggie May
    Black Coffee
    Billion Dollar Babies (All of Alice Cooper)
    Stairway to Heaven
    29 or 6 to 4
    What Goes Up (Blood,Sweat, Tears)
    Joy to the World
    Abraham, Martin & John
    So Far Away
    The Elephant Walk
    Theme From a Summer Place
    Long Haired Lady
    We Are Family
    Hey Jude(in a convertible with my dad and brothers/sisters going through downtown Houston…one of my most exciting memories w/dad before he died)
    I’m Not in Love
    I’m Gonna Love You (at age 12-13 when I was in a foster home…Jim Morrison’s voice soothed my 13 year old aching heart)
    Magic Carpet Ride
    Take it to the Limit
    Heart of the Matter (about forgiveness…had the single cassette in my Chevy)
    The Greatest Love of All
    I’m a Believer
    I’m Not Your Steppingstone
    Goin Down to that St. James Infirmary (my dad’s name was James)
    Steely Dan (any and all…first and only year in college)
    Boz Scaggs…Lido
    Dwight Yoakum (most of them)
    Delta Lady
    Up on a Tightrope
    Peter Frampton (entire 1976 album)
    Don’t Stop til You Get Enough
    Take Another Picture-Carly Simon (therapeutic song that taught me if I didn’t like my mind’s picture to take another picture)…change my thought, change my vision
    this song by Smashing Pumpkins has been recycling in my head for days…”1979″….maybe bacause I am in a lull…an in- between point in my life…it is a beautiful, rhythmic melody to the backdrop of my current life.

    • says

      Julia, thanks for adding your songs to our ongoing list. I’m glad the prompt worked for you. Music is so incredibly evocative. I hear one or two notes of a song and there it is–blasting through my head for the rest of the day–like it or not (usually I like it!) Welcome to the Writer’s Journey–and the Roadmap blog.

  7. Tempered Ashes says

    Forever Young.

    For-eh-eh-verrrr eeyooouuunnggg!!

    And I was–and wasn’t. I was perhaps 14, perhaps 10, perhaps even 18–not sure. I was innocent though and couldn’t have dreamed a better life for myself. I walked in fields of gray and darkness, corn and wheat, firecrackers and musicals. I listened to my headset with my tapes–all the cheesy 70s anthems, and states (Boston, Kansas, the Eurythmics) listened to bad music and sang along w/it. Had a blast though–at least on the outside.
    How do I break down these walls? Get a firecracker and explode it open. Get a windpipe and caress it open. Get a banjo and sing it open. Get a guitar and pick it open. Get anything. Just open–puhleeease (jeez)

    Open sesame–here we go–and it all pours out–bad 80s music, horrible 70s twang, cool 60s vibe, useless 50s garb. ahhh decades–now that’s the stuff life is made of–decades.

    What else? Useless ranting–there it is. fell right out a me
    careless fighting horrible yelling tall tale telling
    more? cracker windpipes useless swipes air guitar manny wipes
    lester holt canonbear folk crazy hoch
    lemon drops airy walks candy stops
    crazy dream we are
    crazy dream we be
    crazy is the word
    useless is the verb

    hotcracker pitchforks
    aimless workes
    nasty horkes
    lemon drops
    aim your gun at me
    that is the only salvation..
    shoot your weapons as they cast their badge
    that is the only reason “why”
    nasty airy gundy fucked up reasons to live

    dish them all in favor of for-ehhh-verrr eyoooouuuuung.

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