The Playlist of My Life

My first teenage love was a musician and with that sweet, innocent duet, the playlist of my life began.

I was in a folk group at the time, playing my guitar in church, recording an album and being exposed to new and “radical” music by the older members of the group. I can recall the exact moment I heard Elton John for the first time, reverently passing the album cover around and pulling out our guitars to mimic the songs because we couldn’t wait for the sheet music (and who had money for that anyway?) I left that night with Elton’s magical piano and Bernie’s beautiful, transformative words echoing in my head, my heart and my fingers.

That band was my first tribe. In fact, there were many tribes created during that time, tribes gathered around the turntable collectively choosing, occasionally heatedly debating and ultimately deciding to flip to the B side or replay the same side because the music was just so damn good. It always struck me as a gathering of ancient tribes around the fire, through musical storytelling, creating connections between those gathered there. This was my main social activity as a teenager (well, in truth there might have been a few more but I’m cognizant my children may read this, so will stick to the music theme for now).

In those years, I yearned to play like Duane Allman, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Carlos Santana. I was smart enough to know that Jimi would forever be out of reach. Bonnie Raitt, with her sassy, brave, living-life-large attitude was my idol. As a teenager, my guitar could express feelings I could not; it gave me a voice and as I cradled it next to my side, it was literally part of my body, vibrating with hours of solace and comfort. But as is the way of the world, life took over and my guitar has been all but forgotten as it sits silently in the living room corner. So when I read Mitch Albom’s new book “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” I swear I heard that patient, beautiful guitar cry out from the corner, “Remember me? I’m still here, waiting for you, Ko.”

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My lonely guitar surrounded by various forms of music throughout my life

For anyone who loves music, this is a must read. It’s an amazing piece of work, unexpectedly playing my heart strings like a sneaky virtuoso. It made me begin to reflect on my life through the auditory lens of music. So I’ve started a playlist of my life, looking to amplify the patterns, cadence, tempo, rhythm, timing and emotional expressions that have made me who I am today. As I begin that journey, I’d like to share a few random musical memories in hopes to spark your own journey.

A few random music memories

  • Dancing to “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story with my best friend in New Jersey
  • Pretending to be a go-go dancer to “Day Tripper” (on top of a milk crate, of course)
  • Creating and directing an original musical revue called Stages in graduate school
  • Simultaneously loving and hating the current song that has become my ear worm
  • Telling your college roommate she really needs to get a radio because the silence in her car made her think too much! (okay that’s not musical but the absence of music was killer)
  • Singing lullabies and making up silly songs for my children
  • Playing that soppy song to unleash the watershed of tears that must fall in order to start the healing process
  • Dating a guitar player who felt more comfortable leaving Santana’s Samba Pa Ti on my voicemail because it spoke more than words could say
  • Making a U turn as I walk down the street to drift into a club wafting seductively tempting music that must be danced to
  • Thinking I was done dancing for the night but hearing the next song made us turn around, fling off our coats and hit the floor one more time
  • Dancing in the kitchen, with or without a partner
  • Always believing in the power of music

At this stage in my life, the music has slowed a bit in areas but seems to be picking up in others. It’s all about timing; tuning in to the tempo of my life and perhaps, with a bit of gentle orchestration, nudging it in a new direction, transitioning to the 3rd act with grace and gusto. I am the mixer of my life, consciously dubbing in new sounds, inviting new harmonies with new tribes, creating my own unique playlist.

I recently saw my first musician boyfriend who has continued to play in an awesome band (as his night job, he will tell you) all these years. We have reached a seminal age; one we are both struggling to say out loud, but in the end we agreed that as long as he can still play and I can still dance, we will continue to compose that sweetest of playlists called life.

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