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What are the soundtracks to your life?


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About James

I have lived a lot of years and the more years I have lived, the fewer answers i have found. I hope that by engaging here we can discover some answers together.


Is there anything more powerful than music to send us whistling down memory lane? Which songs move you to tears?

I love art galleries and the way great creative works make me feel.

What music takes you back to a special time and place? Picture: Shutterstock.

What music takes you back to a special time and place? Picture: Shutterstock

Wandering around the Louvre in Paris is an amazing experience. I adore well-crafted poetry and am forever grateful for the enjoyment brought to me by the likes of TS Elliot. With almost childlike wonder, I can view a great movie over and over. I have watched Guess Who is Coming to Dinner many times.

There are few art forms that I cannot derive pleasure from. To borrow from an author whose name escapes me: ''Science is about how we live and the arts are what we love for.'' So very true.

The art form that has the greatest impact on me is music. I like most genres, so long as the piece appeals to me intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

Like most people I have spoken with about this subject, good music not only affects me at the time, but when heard again, brings that ‘time’ back to me. Put simply, I find that music holds memories. Hearing a song again after many years often brings back memories of the time it was first heard.

And it is not uncommon for those memories to be very vivid, so much so, that the emotions associated with those times also come flooding back.

Like many people, there are pieces of music that I do not want to hear because they bring back so many memories and emotions that are best left in the past.

Likewise, there are pieces I listen to that light me up and make me sing as much as they did the first time I heard them. Music is a powerful art form and stimulant, and I have no doubt that how we view many pieces of music is impacted by what was happening in our lives when we first heard it.

When I was organising a funeral lately, the funeral director suggested that I take care in selecting the songs to be played because they would, in my mind at least, forever be associated with that particular funeral and the sadness surrounding it. As it turns out, that did not happen. The memories that have stayed with me are the memories arising from the first time, many years ago, that I heard these pieces.

That said, I can well imagine that the music from a funeral does stay with many people. Sarah McLachlan’s Angel has been played at so many funerals I have attended, that I will never associate it with anything else. I suspect the same is true of Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman’s versions of Time to Say Goodbye. I find both pieces naff, but I am sure they bring back sad memories for many.

So what pieces bring back memories for you? What pieces transport you back to a moment in time where you felt intense emotions? What pieces still make you cry? 

In 1971, Jethro Tull released an album called Aqualung. I first heard it in 1974 (I had a tendency to be a bit slow with these things). It was on our daily must-play list for two years, and was listened to me the day a close friend drove his car off a cliff and lost his head, literally. I have not listened to the album since and feel sad when ever I hear one of the tracks playing. Even viewing the cover of the album, as I did a moment ago, brought memories flooding back.

In the mid-1980s, I recall hearing for the first time Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in B-flat Major. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was embracing the joy of spring. I still find this to be the most beautiful piece of music I have ever heard. It brings me enormous joy. It still brings back memories of that spring day - and all the feelings of possibility that come from beautiful spring days.

Back in 1966, two years after it was released, I recall hearing Dusty Springfield's You Don’t Own Me for the first time. This was an unhappy time in my young life and today when I hear it, all the pain of the period comes flooding back. Thinking about it now, I have some trouble remembering exactly what was making my life unhappy, but to this day, the emotion is very real.

Earlier in the week, as I was sipping tea in a nice café, I recognised the dulcet tones of David Gates and Bread, singing their 1970 hit, Make It With You.

Again, I felt an overwhelming emotion, this time very positive. For no reason other than the music, I suddenly felt a sense of happiness, to the point of having a smile on my face. When I got home, I called the song up on YouTube and listened again. I concluded that it was little more than canned schmaltz, but again, I felt good.

I am sure your music memories are different to mine, but I suspect they are no less real and no less intense.

So, what are they? Which pieces bring back memories for you? Which pieces take you back, and how?

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