Music to My Ears

Today I’ve been asked to write about the three songs that have meant the most to me.

Though I belong to a choir at synagogue and love to sing (despite a weak and erratic ability to support my voice with my breath), I am not really one to become attached to music.

As a teenager, like most people of my generation, I had a transistor radio constantly affixed to my ear, and knew every song on the pop lineup, singing along with the rest.

But later on, I grew away from that attachment to music, certainly away from music of the pop variety. And though I’ve attended my share of concerts, appreciate stellar film music, and even find myself caught up in some elevator music because of its connection to my personal past, I don’t have the sort of emotional attachment to most music that I used to.

That said, there are a few songs that retain that power over me, most admittedly connected to my past. Like Proust’s madeleine cookie, which had the power to bring the past flooding back with one bite, these songs pack a wallop for me.

One of them is “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” This song, fixture of the early 1950s, features in a memory I have from infancy. In this memory,I am lying in my crib, looking through its bars, echoed in the long shadows of the venetian blinds on the floor, and this song is playing and playing on and on.

I have a poem about this experience, but I hesitate to put it here (even if I could  remember what I called it) because I don’t think it has been published yet.

I didn’t know the name of the song at first, but researched the songs popular during the first couple years of my life, playing them online, until I recognized this as the one I heard that day.

The next song is the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” which brings back memories of me walking the hot summer streets of Philadelphia as a teenager.

Do I have a third song? Maybe not. A lot of tunes vie for this position. No one song wins the prize. Perhaps “My Girl,” by the Temptations, or “Reach Out.” Or perhaps some jazz pieces I’ve admired by Coltraine (his version of “Favorite Things,” for instance) or something by Gershwin.

This is the soundtrack of my life.

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