Music is a part of me, really.
My family and I recently took a road trip down to the Southern States. This is something my wife and I used to do every year before we had kids. We love the lifestyle, the food and the people of the American South. Especially the food. Scoff if you must but, after a couple of weeks of fresh seafood, ribs, biscuits and gravy, collard greens and fried chicken I feel healthy and happy. Much healthier than I feel at home. But food is not the subject of this post.
One of our stops was Myrtle Beach, SC. We were wandering around a tourist spot called Broadway on The Beach looking for a place to eat that would be noisy enough to drown out the inevitable yelling of our kids. We passed by a T-Shirt shop and I heard something familiar playing on the store’s stereo. I couldn’t place the song. The guitar solo started and I realized I knew every single note of it, I was anticipating every run. As I struggled hard to remember the song, my wife looked at me and said, “use your Shazam,”. I pulled out my iPhone and held it in the direction of the music. It tagged just as I heard the vocal start up for the last refrain of the song. “I thought I had a girl, I know because I seen her. Her hair was golden brown, blowin’ free like a cornfield.” Blowin’ Free by Wishbone Ash from an album of theirs called Argus, released in 1972. I listened to this album hundreds of times when I was a teenager but haven’t heard it in decades.
As I reflect on this, I wondered why I didn’t recognize this song as a song, yet knew every note of it before it happened. Clearly, Blowin’ Free by Wishbone Ash is woven into the fabric of my memory or consciousness or cells-somewhere deep inside of me. There are likely hundreds of songs like this that, were I to encounter them, I’d be instantly recognize the notes and chord changes but not the title and band. There have been two songs that I’ve loved my whole life but didn’t know what they were called or who did them for years. One was Mr. Dyingly Sad, by The Critters. My friend, filmmaker Alan Zweig helped me with that one. The other was a song by Three Dog Night called Out In The Country, identified for me by Chris Edwards who owns Vintage Sounds on Queen St in Toronto.
What this means to me is that music is more ingrained in my memory than names, titles, bands, language. Music is in some very accessible storage space in my brain, whereas many other memories are on pages not found. I think I need to re-read Daniel Levitin’s book, This Is Your Brain On Music. Maybe the answer is in there.