Music often holds a tight connection with memories, and I’ve recently begun thinking back to some of the songs that basically defined my childhood. A long, but incomplete list, these songs all elicit so many memories.
Steve Miller Band – Fly Like an Eagle (Radio Edit)
The entire Greatest Hits 1974-78 album by the Steve Miller Band is absolutely stellar, but “Fly Like an Eagle” resonates with such nostalgia to me that words can’t adequately describe it. I feel like this album was in the stereo of my father’s truck at least 90% of the time he owned it. We would listen to it over, and over, and over again. If he had to run any errands quick enough for me to sit in the car, I’d skip to that track as soon as he got out, every single time. This song was my jam.
Lenny Kravitz – American Woman
Probably the earliest song I remember having a recording of that belonged to me, I had a cassette of nothing but Lenny Kravitz’s cover of “American Woman” playing over and over probably 10 times. This was almost definitely my single favorite song up until my musical horizons broadened around when I was 13 or 14. Honestly, I didn’t know it was a cover until I stumbled upon the original by The Guess Who when I was probably 22.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the Bridge
Released the same year I was born, the chorus to “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers has been familiar to me for basically as long as I’ve been listening to music. I didn’t know the name or artist until my late teens when I heard it again on the radio and decided to actually figure out what it was.
Stone Temple Pilots – Plush
I first encountered the opening riff to “Plush” in some obscure computer game on the Nothing But Action disc way back in the Windows ‘95 days. I don’t think I actually heard the song in its entirety for years after I first heard the intro. That iconic riff alone was enough for me to fall in love with, and it remains one of my favorite songs.
Eagles – Hotel California
A classic, no doubt, “Hotel California” by the Eagles has always been very dear to me. I remember sitting in the back of my father’s truck, the rear window open, feeling the breeze and imagining myself in the song. Though I won’t call myself a diehard Eagles fan, I will say that that Glenn Frey was a tremendous musician and his death is tragic.
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun
My father was an avid guitarist, and The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” had to be the song he played more than any other. I didn’t hear a recording of it until my mid teens, his rendition was all I knew of it all throughout my childhood. Though I’m usually very picky with covers, I will say that the Five Finger Death Punch cover is fantastic.
Blackfoot – Highway Song
Another song that I was almost exclusively exposed to through my father’s playing, Blackfoot’s “Highway Song” was probably his second most frequent performance. We would have gatherings with probably 20+ people stuffed into our living room, several of which would pick up one of the many instruments sitting around to join in. I have no idea why, but during this song, I would run in circles until I tumbled over. I would start just after the midpoint of the song, when the chorus fades out and the guitar solo slowly picks up the tempo. As the tempo increased, I would run faster and faster, and it’s probably a miracle that I didn’t slip on the hardwood floors and bust my head.
The Drifters – Under the Boardwalk
Though I’ve never picked up an instrument and stuck with it, “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters was one song that I could join in and play. We had a stand-up bass, and the bassline for this song is incredibly simple, enough that I could play it at 7 or 8. I remember playing this one song until my fingers were nearly raw, and I was so proud of myself for knowing how to. Like many others on this list, I didn’t actually hear a recording of the song until my late teens.
Seven Mary Three – Cumbersome
My father had a copy of Seven Mary Three’s American Standard album, but literally the only song he played on it was track 2, “Cumbersome.” He even admitted that was the whole reason he bought the album, and this was back when a music CD ran about $20. Oh, if he were around today to see how you can pay 99 cent for the one song you like. Alas, that’s another topic for another post. Regardless, he would pop the CD in the player of his old red Ford F-150, play “Cumbersome” once, skip back, play it again, and pop the disc out. I don’t think ever listened to another track on that whole album.
Honestly, having revisited the album as a whole, American Standard has become one of my favorite whole albums. Not just a collection of singles, it feels very cohesive, and there’s a flow about it that just isn’t seen much anymore. “Cumbersome” is still my absolute favorite track, and one of my favorite songs of all time, but it’s a solid album through and through.
Tracy Chapman – Give Me One Reason
Another one of those “bought the whole album for one song” situations, “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman has a funky groove that still gets stuck in my head at the drop of a hat today. My old man liked the track “Cold Feet” just as much, if not more than “Give Me One Reason,” but I was never particularly keen on it.
Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
Probably one of the newest songs included here, I first heard Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” from a commercial and it drove me nuts that I couldn’t identify it. The commercial only included the instrumental portions, and I’d never heard the actual song. My cousin told me the name of it, I acquired it via questionable means, and I played it on repeat frequently, for a very long time.
Boston – More Than a Feeling
If there is a single figurehead for 1970’s rock to me, it has to be Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” I remember my father telling me how, at one point in his life, he listened to this song while getting ready every morning. The lyrics, the riffs, the whole song just gives me chills.
Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine
It still baffles me that Bill Withers is known by so few, but the sad, soulful words of “Ain’t No Sunshine” were probably some of the first lyrics I learned. I haven’t kept an official count, but this is one of the many that I never heard a recording of until my teens at least. I’m glad to see that there seems to have been a slight resurgence in its popularity lately, and I wish more people would be exposed to Withers’ excellent work.
Bob Seger – Turn the Page
Though it has been since dethroned by Metallica’s cover on just how much I like a song, Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” takes me back so vividly to my childhood. Yet again, something I encountered first through my father’s guitar playing. Even if I may prefer the cover today, I still listen to the Seger version from time to time for the memories associated with it.
I’m sure there are other songs from my childhood that are just steeped in nostalgia, but then again, music is a huge deal to me. I play any of these, and memories just come flooding back to me.
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