Songs That Shaped My Life

Note: Jeff Tweedy, frontman for Wilco, one of my favorite bands, recently published a memoir by the post title’s name, inspiring me to write this post. 

1963—“Dear Jesus, Abide With Me,” as a five-year-old local celebrity child singer, this song was my standard. I sang it solo at my kindergarten graduation and many other churches, funerals, and homecomings. 

1968—“Unseen Hand,” the song that became my standard as I grew up to the ripe old age of ten. I used it to audition for entrance to the Lee College music program. 

1974—“Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night. It was the first song on the radio, and my first time driving a car alone. I had not been allowed to listen to rock music, and I will never forget the thrill of hearing that song. 

1976—“25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago. I had never heard rock music with horns and complex harmonies like this. It was a revelation as a trombone player in the high school marching band. 

1977—“Carry on My Wayward Son,” by Kansas. It was my first year at college, and a friend invited me over to his apartment to listen to his groovy new audio speakers, and he turned this up as loud as it would go. I’ll never forget it—yet another totally new rock and roll style. I had cold chills. 

1977-1983—My dark ages of music. As minister of music, the pastor at my first church made us burn all our rock albums—one of the most horrific days of my life. 

1984—“God Bless America,” my one solo performance of this song changed my life forever. I received a full scholarship and finally finished my BA in Music. 

1991—“I Could Sing of Your Love Forever,” by Delirious?. A nondescript CD arrived in the mail in a cardboard case at my church office, and the moment I heard it, I knew Christian music would never be the same. The syncopation, hypnotic melody, and stripped-down rock style were mesmerizing and changed my choice of church music forever. 

2001—“Show Me Your Glory,” by Third Day. This song was written by a young man in my artist mentoring group, and the first time I heard the demo, I knew it would be a hit. I had no idea I would soon be on tour with his band and experience the delightful weirdness of being on the road with a Christian rock band at the top of their game—groupies and all.

2005-2010—Another dark age of music. Nothing. 

2010—“Lightning Crashes,” by Live. In Chicago, doing a contract gig, a new friend from Austin invited me to a club in Lincoln Park filled with a screaming audience to hear Ed Kowalczyk, the frontman for Live (he also wrote Lightning Crashes). The song electrified me and brought me to life in the worst time of my life. All the gay guys in the audience were screaming for Ed to take off his shirt. He did. Wow. In a surreal twist of fate, Ed and I were introduced after the show, hit it off, and in a few minutes, I was on the tour bus having grappa and talking about life with him. We became friends, and later, he and his band came and did an unforgettable show for me at my arts conference. 

2011—”Somebody That I Used To Know,” by Gotye ft. Kimbra. Just read the lyrics. It was not a lover metaphor; it was the church. 

2017—“Kindling (Fickle Flame)” by Elbow (ft. John Grant). Healing is finally coming to my life. “…and the wheat fields explode into gold…” My beloved friend Mark Jaffrey, a Brit who lives in Egypt, introduced me to the band Elbow, and their songs have enriched my life in myriad ways. 

2018—“The Joke” by Brandi Carlile. Karma. …I’ve seen how it ends… 

2019—“This Land” by Gary Clark, Jr. The lyrics and music express so much of my angst and anger about the slow death of democracy and equality in America. His music speaks deeply to me. 

2023—“Barcelona” by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe. This song, a fusion of rock and classical music, has captured my heart as we make this huge move to Barcelona, Spain. Gina and I listen to it non-stop.