The music that defines you

One thing that almost everyone seems to love is music. It’s pretty surprising to hear someone say they don’t like music, though I have encountered such unusual people on rare occassions. Of course, for some people, music is a great passion and plays a central role in life, and for others, it’s something to bob your head to, to dance to, to get stuck in your head for a while and then be forgotten completely. I think for nearly everyone though, there are songs, artists, and albums that define certain periods or moments in their life. It’s an art form and medium of entertainment that’s more directly connected to people emotionally than nearly anything else.

Personally, nothing defines me musically more than The Beatles, Elliott Smith, and Wilco. Of course, Hank Williams, Sr., Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Pavement, and dozens and dozens others, are close friends in the (metaphorical) social network of my life, but the former three are my nuclear family. That’s not to say I identify because I drop acid like Lennon, suffer from horrifying childhood memories like Mr. Smith, or suffer the kind of migraines that certainly must have inspired Jeff Tweedy to put ten minutes of (very beautiful, of course…) static at the end of “Less Than You Think”. Rather, it’s through their music, and only mediately with them, that I feel this familial bond. Those musicians may be my musical family, but the music itself is my blood.

So, what album am I, what album are you? I’ve always been more White Album than Sgt. Pepper, more A Ghost Is Born than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (though I love them all). I imagine some people out there must listen to Notorious B.I.G. and feel, “Yes, that’s me, that’s my album.” Or, “John Denver, yeah, man, that’s me.” It doesn’t really mean they’re all about what Biggie was out, or John Denver. You don’t need Puffy (P. Diddy, sorry), by your side to connect with that kind of music, I’m sure. And you don’t need to live out in the woods to connect with Denver’s. Our musical preferences represent a more fantastical and imaginative element of who we are. It’s who we are at some extreme of passion, like a formal version of ourselves, freed from the constraints of our current lives. In this other world, the difficulties may be even worse, but we deal with them in a carefree way, or respond more passionately than we ever could in real life, or are able to take it out on a guitar (or violin or theremin) instead of quietly facing it.

How many times have you listened to a song for the first, or fiftieth, time, and thought “What they’re singing is exactly true,” or even, “the sound of that instrument contains more truth about life than words can ever speak”? It’s powerful stuff.

As Jeff Tweedy sings in “Jesus, etc.”,

“You can rely on me honey,
You can come by any time you want,
I’ll be around,
You were right about the stars,
Each one is a setting sun.”

Even if each star is a setting sun, it’s good to know the likes of Jeff Tweedy will always be there in musical form, waiting to be visited.


2 Responses to “The music that defines you”

  1. Heather Says:

    Thank you for this — very well-said, and especially meaningful to me because it sounds like our taste in music matches very closely. So which Elliott Smith album is you? It’s either/or for me. And Revolver, and YHF. I think I need to add Elvis Costello to my nuclear family, though, with Imperial Bedroom.

  2. Michael Says:

    Oh, certainly Elvis Costello belongs very close as well. I only own My Aim Is True, so it’s probably time to branch out. As for Elliott, I’d be really hard-pressed to identify one over the others. Still, I think the self-titled might get the nod, if only because it’s so intimate, though I don’t necessarily identify with all of the darker themes firsthand. Elliott is perfect for those of us who enjoy Russian literature, I think.

  3. cmeik Says:

    I just happened to stumble upon this blog, but this entry was pretty good stuff. I think that I’m We’re Only It It For The Money, but that’s just me.

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