"And time washes clean love's wounds unseen
"That's what someone told me but I don't know what it means
"'Cause I've done everything I know to try and make you mine
"And I think I'm gonna love you for a long long time..."
-- Linda Ronstadt
We were seated across from each other in the darkened room, our knees touching. The conversation was intimate, flirtatious, and sweet. I asked with a shy smile what she would think if I were to kiss her? Without a word, she leaned forward with her answer. The electricity pulsed from my head to my toes. In fishing terms: I was hooked.
Her name was Ramona, and I thought she was the most beautiful creature I'd ever seen. Of course, at age 16, I wasn't exactly an expert on such matters, but I definitely thought at the time I knew enough. I had gone to work part-time at a store where she was working, and from the first minute I saw her, I thought, "This is what angels look like." At that age I had no game, but I soon learned she liked music so I began singing little snatches of popular songs to her to get her attention. My best move was turning the lights out once as we walked down the hallway to clock in, and then started singing "Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra. Her smile lit the hall and my heart up. Young love indeed.
But my part-time love affair ended shortly afterwards. Taking me aside, Ramona explained that she already had a serious boyfriend and had to choose between the two of us. I went home with my heart broken. With no one to confide in, I turned to music. I found the Linda Ronstadt song "Long Long Time," and I must have listened to it 50 times in the coming weeks, every repetition soothing my soul, repairing my heart. I was not alone it told me.
Music first came to me specifically in the second grade. We had a songbook we would sing from in class, and for some reason the song "Sidewalks of New York" delighted me to no end. I soon badgered my teacher every time it was time to sing, raising my hand decisively with my song request. It was the start of a beautiful relationship with music.
Being the youngest in my family, I was keenly aware of my sister constantly playing Beatles records mixed with the occasional Herb Albert album, my brother playing Johnny Rivers or Herman's Hermits, my father watching gospel or bluegrass television programs, and my mother humming along to Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra or Fred Astaire.
Thanks to them, my tastes ran eclectic. As the years went by, I would discover Dylan, Cash, Ray Charles, Willie, Tom Russell, Prine, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Howling Wolf, Townes, Fleetwood Mac, Judy Collins, Credence, Arlo Guthrie, but never forgetting Bing and the Chairman either. The list continues to grow to this day, each artist speaking to me something direct, each providing, like so many other people, a soundtrack to my life. When I proposed to my wife, I hired a young man to sing "How Sweet It Is (to be loved by you)." Our wedding exit music after vows was "Take Five."
The philosopher Susanne Langer says music is "a laboratory for feeling and time" and that we experience music with our whole selves, that it's not just a sound but a space for working out who we are and what we long for. So, in times of good and bad, keep a song in your heart. I certainly have for a very long, long time.