It is not easy to isolate three songs out of a forty to fifty year period. What makes it more difficult is the fact that I worked as a disc jockey for several years. Music, quite frankly, helped save my life and shape me into who I am today. When I was angry, I put on an album. Yep, a vinyl record! When I was in love, I turned on the radio. When I was sad, I grabbed my guitar. When I wanted to entertain people and make a few buck on the side, I invested in a pair of turntables, a mixer board, some Peavey speakers and a light show and started doing record hops and weddings. Music is a wonderful thing, and there have been literally thousands of fantastic songs over the years. So this Writing 101 assignment was not an easy task.
I would have to say that my favorite song of all time (I still cringe at limiting myself to ONE song) is “American Pie” by Don McClean. It has everything. Mood, melody, wonderful lyrics, and a great story. It is, in my opinion, a ballad. It is a tribute song. It pays homage to some of the greatest musicians of the 1950s. It’s easy to sing along to, and I do believe I know every word. Whenever I hear “American Pie,” I grab the volume knob and turn it up. I stop doing whatever it was I was doing, and start singing. One of the best renditions of “American Pie” I’ve heard was at Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA several summers ago. A young man with an acoustic guitar and a pair of speakers on stands was standing in the middle of the block singing. Naturally, I stopped right there on the spot and listened.
Another song that has meant a lot to me is “Free Bird” by Lynard Skynard. I think I have always been a free spirit. I marched to the beat of a different drum all my life. I did not always behave myself, and I’m not really sure why. I made up my own rules and did what I wanted. I have a vivid imagination, and I tend to get bored easily. I never seemed to be able to stay on the block as a kid. I would venture off, riding my bike for miles. I would climb trees, walk the river wall along the Susquehanna River in Sunbury, PA, hang out on train bridges, hike up the side of mountains, and stay up late at night listening to radio talk shows. So when I first heard “Free Bird,” I was hooked. It quickly became my anthem. I believe it’s one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time.
My list would not be complete without “Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)” by Styx. A truly amazing song that captured my attention when I bought the album in 1978. It was written by Tommy Shaw. It was originally based on Shaw’s initial perception of Styx keyboardist Dennis DeYoung — an “angry young man” who viewed the group’s successes with a wary eye and grew angry or depressed with every setback. It was only in later years that Shaw began to see himself in the lyrics, and the song took on a more personal meaning to him. What’s not to love with lyrics like, “You see the world through your cynical eyes, You’re a troubled young man I can tell, You’ve got it all in the palm of your hand, But your hand’s wet with sweat and your head needs a rest.” I know I was drawn to this song because I, too, was an angry young man. A lot of things pissed me off, and I rebelled against my parents. Thankfully, I found shelter in high school, and became involved in a lot of projects and activities.
I really liked this writing assignment. There are so many more songs I could discuss. Songs that remind me of special times, troubled times, happy times, sad times. I think I grew to love music because my parents were always listening to something. The Beatles were huge in our home, as was Elvis. My parents grew up on music of the 1950s. Their courtship included a lot of dances. Of course, they had a favorite burger joint that was like the “Arnold’s” of their neighborhood. They used to have friends over on the weekend and would dance in the living room all night long. Dad was very creative. He did a lot of oil paintings. He made crafts and furniture. His woodworking shop was rather impressive. He passed away in December 2014, and my mother gave me one of his paintings. I will always be grateful to my father for the creative genes he passed on to me.