Songs of our Youth
Earlier this week, we cranked up Pandora in the living room with our children and listened to John Denver croon the new State Song of West Virginia.
Almost heaven, West Virginia,
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
Life is old there, older than the trees,
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze.
The boys groaned because they heard it at school during the week and the teen announced that she had heard it MANY times in history class the previous year and didn’t really need to hear it again! I proceeded to tell them that it was so old we heard it when we were in high school.
To make matters worse, we both could still remember every word of the once-popular song. Dad and I belted it out while the kids rolled their eyes. I proceeded to tell them we listened to John Denver on eight-track tapes and long play albums. Back in 1977 we did not have cell phones, much less smart phones with playlists. We had one phone in the kitchen – attached to the wall! No, our parents certainly did NOT leave the room if we had a call. They did not believe in “children’s lines.” Our kids were aghast.
I told them about John Denver. He played acoustic guitar and sang. He did not have to climb poles or shoot fireworks to be popular. He just sang and played the guitar, and it was beautiful. I remember having two of his albums. I would sit in my room and listen to them over and over. I did not have an electronic playlist of 3000+ songs wired into my ears. After each song, I had to remove the album from the player, dust it off, put it into the jacket, and place it back in the stacks with the other albums. The turntable was our home playlist.
We also had car playlists. They came in the form of the radio, eight-track tapes, and later cassette tapes. I told them how their Dad drove a dark gold Cutlass SS complete with homemade speakers wired into the trunk. I knew when he was on the way over to my house because I could hear him coming. That got the kids’ attention. They wanted to know how loud their dad’s car was. Well, I told them, I remember my own dad – their granddad – saying that he could hear the boy from about a mile away. That got them tickled because they could not imagine their dad as “the boy.” However, they could easily believe that he played his music that loud in his car because he still does. Just not John Denver anymore.
Now that we had the attention of the three kids, we listened to “Hey Jude” by the Beatles, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” by Simon and Garfunkle, and “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young. We discussed the differences in our cultures and how many of the songs had political overtones, or were sad while others were hard to understand (think Freddy Mercury). As we got to the end of our conversation, I piped up and said, “Hey, did you guys know that we sang a John Denver song in our wedding?”
The boys were mildly interested but the teen was all ears. I explained how one of his love songs was wildly popular in August of 1977. He had written a song for his wife Annie. It was beautiful and I wanted it sung at our wedding. Dad found it on Pandora and played it for all of us.
With the first notes, I was eighteen again, walking down the aisle with my own dad, and looking up at a young nineteen year old with long, fuzzy sideburns. I remembered every word of that song as if it were yesterday. I teared up and couldn’t sing at first.
You fill up my senses, like night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again.
I finished with a sniff and thought about the songs of my youth and how they can seemingly make time stand still. Thirty-seven years and eight kids later we actually live in “Almost heaven, West Virginia” but now have Pandora to help us share the songs that tell our dating and romance stories, songs that tell the culture of our youth, and songs that transport us back to a time when we made the most important choices of our lives.