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What’s on Your Life’s Playlist

Last week I wrote about Edmund de Waal’s talk at the Museum of Art History in Vienna and his views on the layering of memory through art and books.

Me in New Orleans, USA

For me, so many memories are layered through music – so much so that certain songs are now compiled in my heart and mind in a kind of playlist of my life. Songs that I never necessarily cared for when I first heard them but somewhere along the line managed to etch themselves so deeply into my brain that whenever I hear them now, I remember a specific event, place, person or time. How they managed to secure themselves a slot in the medley of my past varies. Maybe the song played as tragic news was reported, a cassette tape producer slid it in amongst desired tunes as proof of his malicious sense of humor or random speakers blared the same tune over and over again until by mind surrendered and the association of that song with that place became ingrained in me for as long as I live. Every single song on the following list has a story that goes with the memory that immediately takes me back in time to that place.

I am sure everyone has such a list. Here’s some of what’s on mine (that I’m willing to share):

Steppenwolf, Born to Be Wild – Camping and fishing in the summer with my family in PA as a child, wild and

Me getting ready to catch some trout

crazy little kids, yep. Really wild.


Supertramp’s Take the Long Way Homemy beloved childhood dog

Any Beach Boys song – my brother – who blasted me awake every day in summer with them blaring at window rattling levels from his larger than life homemade speakers

Trio, Da Da Da – my brother’s college years and his roommate, due to a mixed tape gone horribly wrong incident

Beatles, Revolution11th grade social studies class and our social studies teacher, the long hair he loved to brush and him hopping between desks in frenzied excitement commanding “Listen to the words, Listen to the words!”

Münchener Freiheit: So lang’ man Träume noch leben kann –  Germany, my host brother loved this song and played it quite a bit. That and the Bee Gees but I am trying to keep them off my playlist

Me on Bourbon Street, New Orleans, USA

Marc Cohn, Walking in Memphis2 months camping cross country, USA. The song particularly reminds me of the days in New Orleans

Konstantin Wecker, Wenn der Sommer nicht mehr weit ist – moving to Vienna

Khoa San Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Scorpions, Winds of ChangeGorki park, Moscow and having a street artist do a portrait there while this song played over and over again from somewhere in the park.  I’m not kidding. True story. Couldn’t get over it and it has stayed with me since.

Joshua Kadison, Jessie – a working stint for a few months in Boston, MA

Me in Mama’s Guesthouse on Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Cranberries Zombies – Khoa Son Raod, Bangkok, Thailand, blaring over and over through paper thin windows and walls all hours of the night. I remember saying sometime around 2 am “You’re in my head already. Alright?! Now quit singing and let me sleep!”

Bruce Springsteen, Streets of Philadelphia – Beijing, China and the surreal experience of going from living in

Me and my bike in China in front of the Kempinski Hotel

Ping Guo Yuan in a two room apartment with Chinese friends to the Kempinski to babysit cats for 2 weeks

Deep Purple, Smoke on the Water – Meeting a sturdy as steel US marine on the otherwise deserted China Beach in Vietnam whose first question to me was “Where’s the Party?” as he carried a big old boom box on his shoulder blasting Deep Purple.

China Beach, Vietnam

John Lennon, Imagine – 9/11

Big & Rich, Save a Horse & Barbie Girl – chaperoning middle school dances with a beloved teaching colleague (and the conversation of “Is this age appropriate? Should we be intervening?” I received a CD a week later with all the songs — I miss this colleague even if don’t miss chaperoning middle school dances)

Big Island Coast, Hawaii

Israel “IZ”, Somewhere over the Rainbow – beautiful trip to Hawaii

Napali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

What’s on your life’s playlist?