Writing 101 Challenge: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?
When I read the challenge for today, my immediate response was, “They are outta their minds – who can limit their experience to JUST three songs?” Not the kid. Music is an integral part of my life and who am I. After all, I was that kid that the grandparents pushed up front, in front of the entire church, at age 6 to sing “IT’S RAINING JOY” by the Blendwrights because they thought it was cute to hear me try to hit the high notes, and I was too dumb to know that I could say “No” (even to my grandparents). In elementary school, I played the clarinet, with some skill, but after my mom paid for my instrument, I lost interest. (But, by then, I had learned how to control my breathing and I found out that was very useful when kissing boys later in life.) In high school and college, I sang in choirs and small groups and in the shower. And if you catch me at the right time, you might (even now) see me driving down the highways, windows down, radio turned up as loud as I can stand it, singing to the top of my voice IF “my song” just happens to come on the radio. But what might be considered “MY SONG” at the moment might not be “MY SONG” a day, a week, a month later. Music is fluid and its influence changes as your life, situation, reality changes. That is a powerful thing. So, instead of writing about three specific songs, I choose to accept today’s challenge by writing about three specific genres of music that mean the world to me: gospel, jazz and rhythm & blues (or R&B).
GOSPEL: This is the music of worship and praise to God and an integral part of my life. Growing up, my parents played a LOT of gospel music – Andre Crouch, the Blendwrights, the Faith Quartet (from my grandparents’ home church), James Cleveland – the list goes on and on. Through the words of these songs, I learned about my Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ. I learned of His love for me. I learned that, no matter what I was going through – no matter what I did (or didn’t do) – His love for me was steadfast and true. As I grew older and developed my own relationship with HIm, I discovered songs of praise and thanksgiving that helped me hold on through dark days and tumultuous times. MY SOUL IS ANCHORED, BLESSED ASSURANCE, BE GRATEFUL – songs that send chills up my spine every time I hear them, no matter how good (or bad) the voice singing them. Powerful music that stirs my heart and leads me straight to the Cross. I could not sustain my spiritual well-being without gospel music.
RHYTHM & BLUES: Even though I was living in New York City when the craze that has become “hip hop” music took hold, it never appealed to me. Well, there was that one song by the Sugarhill Gang, but other than that, I never was a fan of the genre. But throw some good ole R&B on the radio (or Walkman or iPod), and I was enthralled and entertained for hours. Singers like Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross & the Supremes, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, Minnie Riperton – those were the artists my mom made us listen to when the thump thump thump of rap/hip hop got to be too much. Then as i got older, Luther Vandross, Phyllis Hyman, Anita Baker, and Patti Austin sang the songs that became the soundtrack and background music of my romances and heartbreaks and good times with friends. To this day, I cannot listen to certain songs (and albums) without IMMEDIATELY being transported back in time to a certain place or the memory of a certain person or without the invocation of a specific feeling or emotion. The memories of my life are wrapped up in R&B music.
JAZZ: And then there is jazz. Whether it is the traditional, moody jazz of the masters: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn – or the more contemporary instrumental stylings of Boney James, Wynton Marsalis, Alex Bugnon and Kenny G – or the vocal gymnastics of Rachelle Ferrell and Dinah Washington – jazz is the music of grown folk. I remember my father playing jazz on Sunday mornings when I was a child growing up and thinking, “Man, why can’t he play something good?” It was years later before I could understand the value of sitting down and listening to jazz, dark room, eyes closed, engulfed in the sounds coming from a trumpet or saxaphone or piano. And nothing compares to being at a concert (the smaller the venue the better) and actually seeing, hearing someone use their talents to coax beautiful, haunting, memorable sounds from their instrument – whether it is their voice or some piece of wood, metal or brass. Jazz is the musical tapestry – all crazy colors, joined together to form something beautiful – that reminds me that sometimes things in life may be chaotic, and seem not to make sense, but when it all plays out – there is a reason, there is a purpose – and life is (eventually) beautiful (again).
Yep, gospel, R&B and jazz. Cannot imagine my life without any and/or all of these genres of music.</p>