It’s funny how significant memories stay with us, those moments where we saw with great clarity who we are, and what we are about in this lifetime. We can look back on our life and see these moments like unmistakable breadcrumbs pointing the way to our fate. I have many such memories pointing the way to music.
My Aunt recently gave me some family pictures that my grandmother had when she was alive. I’m in many of the pictures. One in particular that is jumping out at me tonight is a picture of me, my dad, and my sister, sitting on a couch at our then-home in San Francisco in September 1980, when I was a wee lad of five months. My dad and sister are smiling into the camera and I, being at that point only a semi-sentient being who did not know about such things as picture taking, was not. Yet, fittingly, I have a pair of black headphones on my head.
Although I do not remember this exact moment (after all I was 5 months old), I do have a memory of wearing those headphones, probably several years later. And I recall feeling distinctly at home with them, and having the feeling that listening to music into my ears was very, very right for me.
I have many other early memories that all relate to sound and music. When I was a kid, I remember loving to fall asleep in the car. For one thing, I felt safe in the car (I can’t explain that, but I always have). For another, I loved the hum of the car as my ear rested against the seat. To me it was a pleasant sound, a homely sound. It was my car, as in my family’s car. Yet also, I just loved the sound.
I have another memory where I could have been three or four years old. I sat in the backroom of our then-new home in Concord, California, playing with my Playskool Record Player. It had colored, plastic records that you could put on to play songs. I felt profoundly at home with the process of playing the records. I distinctly remember wondering to myself if this music thing was something I was going to be spending my life with. It was as if a much wiser, older knowing within me was thinking for me, and passing the insight into my consciousness.
Another memory has always stayed with me: it was probably my tenth or eleventh birthday. I got a Walkman for my birthday, and a cassette tape (I believe) of Billy Joel’s “Innocent Man,” which features one of my favorite Billy Joel songs, “For the Longest Time.” I remember being at my own birthday party, playing that music into my ears with my new Walkman, and thinking to myself, “I don’t want to stop listening to this. I want these people to just go away so I can just keep listening to the music.” Of course, I never voiced this thought, but the choice was clear: it was music all the way, baby!
A final memory I recall was of being in grade school, possibly seventh or eighth grade, and the nearby high school had a visiting performance group come and play. I remember there was this one kid who blasted excellent trumpet up on stage. I thought to myself, “That kid is amazing! That is awesome, I want to do that!” I have often thought of that memory over the years, because I have seen myself become the confident, experienced performer that I saw up there on stage that day.
As in so many other memories, where I had a glimmer of inspiration and clarity guiding me on the way.