Reflections on Old Music

“Every song I hear from those times evokes a sad or sweet memory of my childhood and early adult years.”
Reflections on Old Music
The Reader's Turn
In the Aug. 9–15 edition, Randy Tatano’s bit of nostalgia, “Songs Shouldn’t Need Subtitles or a Translator—Reflections on old music versus the new,” rang true to me. I also grew up in the ’50s in an Italian household. I cannot remember where the music and the songs came from other than my mother’s heart and soul. Maybe it was a static-filled old radio. I knew all the words to Sinatra, Dean Martin, and countless others’ songs. I knew, and know, the words from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s songs.

Every song I hear from those times evokes a sad or sweet memory of my childhood and early adult years. There were 10 children in my family. My mom always found joy enough to sing and occasionally the energy to “tap dance” on the kitchen floor wearing her penny loafers.

Raising my own family of three children, I had quite a collection of vinyl albums, each with special memories attached to it that I would play over and over again. I didn’t think my children noticed, but now I know my children heard them because some of my favorite songs have become part of their collection of favorite songs interwoven into their music-playing devices.

Taking those memories to the workplace, an office at a historic site, where I was adding up some numbers that totaled 1814, I said, “1814” out loud. The four of us in the office, ranging in age from 50s, 60s, and 70s, all at once began mumbling words and lyrics from Johnny Horton’s song “The Battle of New Orleans.”

“In 1814, we took a little trip ... Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip‘ ... We took a little bacon and we took a little beans ... We fired once more and they began to runnin’ ... On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.”

We could all feel the lyrics rising up from our dusty brain cells. We all knew some of the lyrics of the song and managed to patch together the song, piece by piece. The song itself became popular way back in the late 1950s and magically was resurrected simply by hearing “1814” in the office in 2023.

I don’t believe that could ever happen in an office setting with the current “noise’ that is playing on “iPods” or other “noise makers.” There are no lyrics, only grunts, groans, and screams. There is no message or story, understanding or feelings that clearly come out of such “noise.”

I do listen to ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s music, and sometimes turn the volume up a little bit to the too-loud range and sing along. It brings me joy, calm, peace, and memories. It touches my heart and soul and takes me back to my mother “tap dancing” in the kitchen or singing, ”Over the Rainbow” ever so lovely.

Again yesterday, my granddaughter touched my heart when she texted me, “The other day ‘Humble and Kind’ (Tim McGraw) was playing in the gym. I was thinking of you.” Nostalgia, yes, meaningful words, yes, reflections, yes, deeply. I am so pleased that my granddaughter thinks of me when she hears a powerful song.

Kathleen M. Henry Florida

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