Soundtrack to my life

/ 25 March 2024

In the process of thinking through digital storytelling, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about soundscapes. Recently I’ve been thinking about the music that has been a soundtrack for my life, and thanks to YouTube, I found most of these songs.

In my young life, up through high school, two songs came to mind, Rhymes and Reasons by John Denver and Mandy by Barry Manilow. I know, I know, how trite! But these are the songs I remember and can sing from memory.

Towards the middle of high school I had my first painful breakup, and of course Dust in the Wind was the song that accompanied that.

Finally, in the joy of my senior year (which was a year of affirmation) the theme for my senior prom was The Rainbow Connection and that is another song that echoes for me.

I have to also note that along with these songs I have lots of memories of listening to my mom practice the organ. I remember lying on my back on the chancel steps, listening to this Bach fugue as it resonated around the empty sanctuary. Something in me responded to it, but it wasn’t in joy?

College was a whole different ball game, and part of it was discovering feninist and womanist theorizing, and women’s music. Various kinds of advocacy (against apartheid, against nuclear weapons, for peace) took up most of my energies, and this song comes to mind for me even though it wasn’t released until years after I graduated: Sky Dances by Holly Near.

I was mostly very busy parenting during my graduate studies — both of my children were born then — but Leonard Cohen’s Broken Hallelujah is what comes to mind for me from that time period.

And then we get to the early 2000’s, and the aftermath of September 11th. Bruce Springsteen’s song The Rising and also this version is the soundtrack for that period for me.

That time period was also my early years as a professor, and both Grace by U2 and All That We Let In by the Indigo Girls frame that era for me.

My time at Luther Seminary has imprinted itself deeply on me, in so very many ways, but in terms of popular music I have to note that anti-racism activism has kept me sane. So these two songs — Blackbird also this version — and Glory as sung by the Detroit Youth Choir, are key for me.

Which brings me to the present day. There are two songs that have been “earworms” for me, or maybe just hugely resonant lately? They are Billie Eilish’s song for the Barbie movie What was I made for? and Jon Batiste’s lullabye for his wife Sulaika, Butterfly. I can listen to each of these over and over. Not sure what that says about my current state of being?

And there you have it. A set of songs that have formed a soundtrack to my life.