The year is 1978. I am still living in the womb. My father turns on the jukebox in a bar in Paris to play “America the Beautiful” by Ray Charles. He is homesick.
Same year. Werewolves of London plays everywhere. My parents are mildly obsessed with Warren Zevon but I don’t mind because this song is the inspiration for my hair.
my parents in Paris circa 1978
- I am just a little over two years when Bob Marley passes. My mom is devastated and rocks me to sleep singing songs from Uprising. Many, many moons later, she’ll tell me how upset she is that she missed one of his last shows in Paris.
- Walk of Life. I realized I could fall in love with a song about baseball. My dad blasts the radio whenever it is on and sings like his life depends on it. This song will always remind me of my poppa, and, should I ever have a wedding, it will be our song.
From this day forward, Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits will play every time I am in the car with my parents.
- My cousins, my brother, and I are moonwalking in the living room while my mom and aunt look on and laugh. Thriller plays on repeat in a small apartment in Queens and I’m fairly certain we burn a hole in the record before the year is done.
- I am painfully awkward, with massive glasses and horrible hair. I am at a party when my friend Melanie tells me we should choreograph a song to Ice, Ice Baby. It seems like a silly idea, but I have nothing to lose, and amazingly, some of the cool kids in class start to talk to me after our performance.
- I am a senior in high school debating my future and colleges. Andy hands me a CD in class one day that changes my life forever. Little Earthquakes. I fall helplessly in love with Tori Amos in a way that I’ve never fallen for another musician before. Hers is a voice that will carry me through those formative years.
- Spice Girls are everywhere, and I dress up as Ginger Spice for Halloween.
- I attend my first Phish show at the Pepsi Arena in Albany. Glow sticks rain down on my head and I am the happiest I think I’ve ever been in my life.
1999-2000. I discover Leonard Cohen. I develop a massive crush on the person who made the introduction but I can’t ever let him know that because the timing is simply never right with us.
- The movie Garden State makes me wonder what songs would play in the soundtrack of my life. Also, will I ever find anything as perfect as New Slang by the Shins?
- The year I develop a love for bluegrass, specifically of the jam variety. String Cheese Incident. Yonder Mountain String Band. Old Crow Medicine Show. The lyrics are typically sad, the music infectious.
- I’m on a beach in Hawaii when the song “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz comes on. It is unbelievably romantic and all wrong. This is a defining moment for me; a time when I realize my long-term relationship is completely kaput.
- Michael Franti spits prolific beats in my ear. I can’t get enough and I dance my ass off. I am single and loving life right now.
- Years of bad dates later, my ex’s sister finally convinces me to go out with her friend. We hit it off immediately. Our tastes in music are vastly different—he prefers punk rock while I still love my jam bands. We find common ground in the Lumineers and Mumford and Sons…. Wagon Wheel by Old Crow will always be Our Song.
2017. When someone asks me what type of music I listen to, I struggle. So many different rhythms have shaped the woman I am now: reggae, classic rock, rap, bluegrass, folk, jam. They all play a role in my musical chronology. How can I pick just one?
Tell me… what is your musical history?