Musical Memories

I’ve always been amazed by the power music has to affect my mood and by how evocative a single song can be. Music can uplift me and cheer me up, or move me to tears, but it always does good and reaches deeply into my soul. Music and certain songs can also be tied so closely to specific memories that just a few notes can conjure up such clear images and sometimes very strong emotions too. For TCKs, there’s the added factor that certain songs remind us of one of the countries we lived in – it’s one of the ways we remember when songs (or movies) came out, because we date them from where we were living at the time.

Although I love many musical styles, groups, singers and composers, in a variety of languages, there are certain songs/groups that hold stronger memories. It doesn’t mean they are my favorites or hold a particularly special place in my heart, it’s just that somehow they have a very clear memory or location/event attached to them. Regardless of whether they’re my favorite or not, they almost always make me smile when I hear them. And I will never cease to be amazed at the clarity of images and memories they trigger.

I have written about musical memories before – listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival or Kenny Rogers during our road trips in Mexico – but there are so many more songs and groups that transport me around the world with just a few notes.

What led me to write this today was hearing a song on the radio that will always be linked to one exact moment/event: Killing Me Softly by The Fugees. That song came out in 1996 and since it was a huge hit it played over and over on MTV. I know that because we were in a hotel at the end of summer vacation, which meant we had cable and a lot of free time. I was 11 years old and we had just moved from Mexico City to Manila (Philippines). Killing Me Softly will forever be linked to that hotel room, to room service in front of a movie on HBO, to playing barbies with my sister, to that mix of anticipation and trepidation of being in a new place… I can see the hotel room so clearly in my mind, as if I had been there recently, and not 18 years ago.

The Philippines is also inextricably linked to Third Eye Blind. Their first CD was such a hit and we loved it. Even though I haven’t listened to it in a long time, I’m pretty sure I could still sing along to all their lyrics. Third Eye Blind is synonymous with walks around our “villages” (enclosed residential compounds) with my best friend at the time, discman carried between us as we shared headphones and talked about our latest crushes and gossip. Third Eye Blind (and OK, Backstreet Boys too) was also the background music while thinking about said crushes and doing homework.

A few weeks ago I heard All My Life by K-Ci and JoJo, which had also come out when we were in the Philippines… I could sing along to nearly every word and I could picture my bedroom in the Philippines more clearly than I had in years. The power a few simple notes can yield is astounding.

Interestingly, it’s only been while writing this that I realize how many musical memories are linked to the Philippines… I think that’s because I had my own room for the first time, my own radio/CD player, and I was in middle school. I was just discovering my own tastes, my own freedoms and beginning to understand the comfort/power of music.

There are definitely songs that remind me of the other countries I’ve lived in though. Blue by Eiffel 65 will forever remind me of Sydney, of hanging out with friends at the beach and parties at each other’s houses. It’s forever linked to sunshine, laughter, teenage angst and carefree days. It conjures up images of our house in the Sydney suburbs, under clear blue skies.

Then there were the other hit pop songs of the time, when we were introduced to Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, with Genie in a Bottle and Hit Me Baby One More Time. Eagle Eye Cherry’s song Save Tonight was very popular when we lived in Australia to… All these songs remind me of putting the radio on in the living room, with family and friends, chatting, laughing and even dancing around.

Certain Australian bands will always take me back there as well – Taxiride and Crowded House. And the Backstreet Boys Millennium CD will always be linked to Australia, to sleepovers with best friends and conversations about boys and gossip. We were teenage girls, what could you expect?

In more recent years I have songs that remind me of the summer we moved to the U.S. 4 years ago, or Smile by Uncle Kracker, which was our wedding song… That always brings a huge smile to my face (pun not intended) and fills me with happiness and warmth when I think of that beautiful, love-filled weekend in Provence.

I’m sure there are many more memories and songs I could bring up from the different countries I’ve lived in, but I’ll leave you with those for now. These memories all make me smile and remind me just how lucky I am to have led such a life and have such incredible experiences.

Music is a means of comfort, of communication, of escape and relaxation… but it is also a means of remembering.

What sounds or songs trigger special memories for you? 

Please feel free to share in the comments – I would love to hear your stories!

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8 thoughts on “Musical Memories

  1. Oh my gosh – love this post. Credence Clearwater Revival – camping trips in Boarding School! Bought one of my sons the album on LP a couple of years ago. Did I buy it for him or for me?? Dire Straits – driving in the Himalayan Mountains “We got to move these refrigerators! We got to move these color TVs!” Beatles – everytime we had curry in Boarding School (the only palatable food there practically!) This is such a great post Dounia! Thank you.

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    1. I love that you shared several musical memories here! I grew up hearing CCR (and Elvis among many others, since my dad loved them) and they’re still some of my favorite CD’s today! Thanks so much for commenting and sharing some of your memorable songs 🙂 I love hearing about other people’s experiences and memories – it’s always so much fun, because everyone has such different experiences around the world. Oh, and by the way, I’m really loving your book!!

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      1. I love these memory connections as well. It’s that power of music between worlds don’t you think? That we recognized even as we lived and learned and loved our adopted countries, that our passport countries offered us this music that got into our blood!
        Thank you for your kind words about the book.

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        1. I also grew up with many French singers, because both of my parents listened to them as well. I was naturalized American as a kid, but our country of origin is Lebanon (although I never lived there). In Lebanon, French is widely spoken so it’s always been a part of my life. And I love music and have CDs in different languages (including French and English of course!) – Spanish from living in Mexico, Italian because my husband’s family is originally Italian… Music has always been a connecter because it’s everywhere – you can listen to it in every country, you can bring it along and people listen to music all over the world. The language and style may be different, but it’s music. Is there anything more global? 🙂

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  2. “The language and style may be different, but it’s music. Is there anything more global?”

    That’s it in a nutshell—hitting the nail on the head. A lot of the songs you talked about have memories for me too. (We’re pretty much the same age, that’s why, hehe). Millennium by the Backstreet Boys was the first album I ever bought for myself at age 12 or 13 in Lebanon. Those were my teen years—from 12 to 15. I was introduced to MTV for the first time and to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson. And all those boy bands! (Boyzone, O-Town, Westlife…you name it). Although he didn’t have much in terms of albums or videos at the time, Michael Jackson was a HUGE part of my musical tastes, and I had memorized, down to the last detail, a huge chunk of his discography.

    Music is crazy, and wonderful and I don’t even know where anyone would be without it.

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    1. After I shared this post on twitter, I got a bunch of fun tweets from people sharing which songs they remembered and where they were when they listened to them. It was so much fun to read all of them, just like I love reading your comment! I had totally forgotten about O-town and Westlife (I haven’t forgotten Boyzone though), but yes, they were on the radio and MTV so much around that age! The funny thing about Michael Jackson is that although I didn’t have any of his CDs, I know a lot of his songs. Even today when they come on the radio I recognize them and can sing along to quite a few of them (way more than I realized!). He was such so present that the songs sunk in without me realizing it!

      Your last sentence is so true. I don’t know where any of us would be without music. It’s always there when you need it, no matter the emotion or how you’re feeling, there’s some kind of music that fits and is just right… It is indeed crazy and wonderful – thank goodness we’ve got music! 🙂

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  3. Well, well….guess who? 😛 Shocking, I know. Slightly quieter/slower morning at work, so I thought I would try and catch up on your blog posts a bit, seeing as I have been very much behind (insert shameful face here). Enjoying the new (relatively speaking) posts 🙂 And of course, agree with this one.
    Won’t have quite as many musical memories, admittedly – Levels by Avicii will always remain ‘the’ song of our senior class, with all the memories that brings (ping-pong/chilling in the senior lounge, nights out in Paris, a week in Crete, and everything in between). Call on Me by Eric Prydz always makes me think of Iacopo .. and, for example, his stunning dance moves at the wedding and beyond. And there must be others that I can’t think of right now…until I hear them, I suppose 😛
    And then there are sounds – for years after Saska passed, any sound of trickling liquid, or plastic wrappers, in the house would immediately induce dread and make me think of you can guess what…the sound of cicadas is inextricably linked to summer nights in Provence (and Lebanon, but those crickets sound different 😉 )…The squeak of fresh snow as you walk, linked to the cold, and winter, and skiing and that excitement of hitting the slopes.
    Definitely agree with how you finish, and actually I think it can be extended to all our senses – they don’t just ‘experience’ the world for us, but ‘record’ – and bring back memories. Music & sounds, but also smells, sights, colors, textures…I think anything you ‘sense’ gets ‘stored’ and can bring back memories you may not expect until you experience it again – and that’s awesome. The ‘smell of winter’, the feel of fresh snow, that ‘flushed’ feeling on your face after a day skiing or in the cold, walking & digging in your feet on a sandy beach …….
    Bon, ca suffit – this comment is long, imaged, and reflective enough. Isn’t it thrilling? 😛

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    1. I love when you leave comments on my blog! 🙂 They’re always fun and full of great reflections. I love how the memories you mentioned are so varied, and also so vividly described. I definitely agree with you about other senses playing a big role too – I wrote a post about the sense of smell quite a while ago (Scents & Sensibility). And I love how you said our senses “record” the moments; so poetic, Raw! This was a great comment – I loved reading it and I love that you took the time to write it! 🙂

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