Composing the Soundtrack of Our Lives: My Early Years
Have you ever noticed that while watching a movie on tv that you make the comment, “This movie has a great soundtrack?”
A few movies from my life come to mind for great soundtracks: The Big Chill, Forest Gump, Guardians of the Galaxy. It occurred to me as I sat thinking about the tunes I have recalled during the quarantine that we all have soundtracks. Music that was with us throughout our lives and helped us define ourselves, remember from whence we came, and the life that surrounded us at those times. Because of my age, my soundtrack/playlist will be loaded heavily toward early and classic rock and roll.
The songs of our lives help us to enjoy the good times and transit the bad. Why not write down the names of those songs? Make a list, a catalog if you will of the songs that shaped us, resonated with us, and helped us become the people we are today. They will be with us until they play that background music at our wake. Why not give our survivors the playlist that you have made and not one your eulogizers create from their memory?
I did research on the hits over the years by visiting the Billboard Hot 100 site on the Internet. They have the hits listed by year and by standing on the Top 100 by month. I did find that some of my favorites were not included. That is probably due to my lack of understanding about how the Hot 100 is calculated. It is an excellent place to start.
I began thinking about the songs that were part of my life. Tunes that I will never forget.
At a Junior High Dance
The first memories I have of tunes I loved was in middle school. We had our first dances in the Catholic school I attended. The boys would stand on one side of the room and the girls on the other. It was only when the intrepid Tom Gilles would take Patty Hendley to the floor that the rest of us worked up the nerve to venture over and ask for a dance.
Slow dances were carefully monitored by the nuns, our teachers. We operated under “the daylight rule.” There had to be daylight between dance partners at all times, otherwise, you would get a firm tap on the shoulder. The excitement level of those first slow dances is difficult to describe. In Catholic school we were taught that anything like that was bad. One of the many conflicts of Catholic education in the 50s and 60s.
The following list is just a partial list of the songs I loved but these stayed firmly in my memory.
In 1959 and a bit beyond, my soundtrack consisted of:
- “Book of Love” – The Monotones
- “Mack the Knife” – Bobby Darin
- “Kansas City” – Wilbert Harrison
- “Put Your Head on My Shoulder”– Paul Anka
- “Sea of Love” – Phil Phillips
- “A Teenager in Love” – Dion and the Belmonts
- “Bristol Stomp” – The Dovells, 1961
- “Money” – Barrett Strong, 1960
On to High School
High School was another time of building a flood of memories, mostly uncomfortable, but many unforgettable. Most of us were the victims of bullying and the discouragement of teenage acne and increasingly demanding hormonal insistence. We gained confidence as we advanced from an awkward freshman year to the singular ascendence of senior year. Junior year, we were really beginning to make ourselves known around the school. A dance craze was blasting through the country in 1962.
It was “The Twist” and American Bandstand was twisting the after-school afternoons away. Here is my partial list:
In 1962, my soundtrack consisted of these favorites:
- “The Twist” – Chubby Checker (Not Fats Domino)
- “Duke of Earl” – Gene Chandler
- “Peppermint Twist” – Joey Dee and the Starlighters
- “Twist and Shout” – The Isley Brothers (Accounted for many knee injuries.)
- “Sherry” – The Four Seasons
As a Young Adult
Graduation from high school meant many of us were going right into the workforce, others were going into the military (like it or not with the draft), and some were going to college.
The years between 1963 and 1967 were replete with great tunes. I am giving myself more favorites from those years for my soundtrack/playlist:
- “Candy Girl” – The Four Seasons, 1963
- “Ring of Fire” – Johnny Cash, 1963
- “Walk Like a Man” – The Four Seasons, 1963
- “She Loves You” – The Beatles, 1964
- “I Get Around” – The Beach Boys, 1964
- “Dead Man’s Curve” – Jan and Dean, 1964
- “Baby I Need Your Loving” – The Four Tops, 1964
- “Louie Louie” – The Kingsmen, 1965
- “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”– The Righteous Brothers, 1965
- “My Girl” – The Temptations, 1965
- “Unchained Melody” – The Righteous Brothers, 1965
- “The Tracks of My Tears” – The Miracles (With Smokey Robinson), 1965
- “Satisfaction” – The Rolling Stones, 1965
- “We Gotta Get Out of This This Place” – The Animals, 1965
- “California Dreamin’” – The Mamas and Papas, 1966
- “Devil with a Blue Dress On/ Good Golly Miss Molly” – Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, 1966
- “Dirty Water”– The Standells, 1966
- “Soul Man” – Sam and Dave, 1967
- “Up Up and Away” – The Fifth Dimension, 1967
- “Brown Eyed Girl” – Van Morrison, 1967
- “My Cup Runneth Over with Love” – Ed Ames, 1967
(continued in Part 2)
By Fred Zuker, 2020