Keeping the Song in My Heart

Pacific Ocean
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The singer’s warped warbling made me cringe.

The fact that is was coming from my boombox speakers made me cringe even more. The tape deck had gone ka-blooey. And it wasn’t even a year old.

I was slightly traumatized, but since the warranty was still in effect, I’ll be able to get it repaired. In the meantime, I can play tunes on my generous roommate’s better stereo.

It made me think, though. When has music never been a part of our lives? We probably don’t realize it, but it soothes us, forces us to relax in this fast-paced world. It has since we were babies. My mom used to watch Lawrence Welk. I can remember climbing on my parents’ bed and settling down to watch Bobby and Cissy dance to bobby tunes or the “champagne ladies” sing their goofy songs.

My dad had his “Irish tenor music,” which he would blast maybe once or twice a year – so loud, you could hear it from the street.

At Christmastime, my mom would dust off the collection of 33s, and Bing Crosby and Doris Day’s velvet voices would fill the house, creating a yuletide mood, even if it really wasn’t a white Christmas. Not in Southern California.

Music embedded itself in my life. I sang in the car with my sister, Hazel, during family camping trips, took a few years of piano lessons, and played the flute in junior high band and high school marching band.

I’m not embarrassed to admit I joined the Brady Bunch kids when they pushed their vocal chords to the limit with “It’s a Sunshine Day” or “Keep On” during one episode. They were trying to win a talent show as The Silver Platters so they could buy – what else – a silver platter for their parent’s anniversary. Heck, I wanted to be one of The Silver Platters.

I won’t go into detail about watching The Partridge Family. I have their greatest hits CD. If you can sing “I Think I Love You” without bursting into laughter, give me a call – we’ll start an act and hit the road.

My taste in music has broadened in the past few years. Because I have different friends who enjoy a variety of styles including folk, alternative rock, hard-core, pop, and classical, my collection is eclectic. Sting is stacked next to U2, Kate Bush, the Minutemen, Madonna, Laurie Anderson, Indigo Girls, and John Coltrane, among others. They share the space in complete harmony.

But I can’t take them along when I’m driving. The tape deck in my car hasn’t worked in two years. If it weren’t for the car radio, I wouldn’t be able to sing along with Madonna, Bette Midler, and Amy Grant. That’s probably one of the few times I feel uninhibited about singing. I risk looking like a fool only if other drivers happen to glance at me belting out “Wind Beneath My Wings” from the “Beaches” soundtrack.

Only problem is, whenever I drive from the office in San Luis Obispo to the South County, the hills obscure some of the stations. I end up listening to static for a few minutes before the radio stations from Santa Barbara kick in.

But there’s no doubt folks in this county appreciate good music. That’s why they have so many music events, including the Mozart Festival. The variety of music available at the Mid-State Fair is more proof of our county’s enthusiasm.

I’m not sure how many people would admit this, but I don’t have a problem enjoying kids’ music either. I saw “Aladdin” recently and loved it. My sister played the soundtrack for me afterward. I’m even thinking about buying it.

That’s another thing. I’ve added several songs to my repertoire since my 2 ½-year old niece, Julia, was born. Her favorite movies are “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

When I visit my parents and sister, Julia will coax her mother and me to sings bits of songs from those Disney films. Being hams, Hazel and I immediately comply. And Julia will smile and sing along as best she can. She’s a ham, too.

That’s something that definitely improves my quality of life.

And sometimes, late at night, when I’m driving home from a Pismo Beach City Council meeting, and there’s nothing good on the radio, I’ll do a turn as Ariel, the Little Mermaid, singing “Part of Your World.”

I know the words by heart.

A version of this essay first appeared in the San Luis Obispo County Telegram-Tribune, circa 1993 (A.K.A “ancient history”)


  1. I couldn’t survive without music. My dad was a disc jockey when I was growing up and our house was always filled with (loud) music–and always from vinyl! (Love the sound of an actual album). I’m obsessed with having music playing in the house or through my ipod while I’m hiking or gardening. And of course, I sing in the car all the time!

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