Songs of My Life

[I don’t know how long I’m going to stick to following the daily prompts for Writing 101 but I’m really enjoying them so far. Things aren’t super exciting in my life right now so it’s giving me something to do to completion each day that’s unique to that particular day. Also – I’m not sure if I’m a fan of people being able to like posts on here. It’s nice to have some indication that people, well, like my writing but I could really go for actual comments. Hint. Hint. Yes, mom, that’s directed at you.]

Here’s the day 3 prompt from the WordPress Writing 101 folks:

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don’t censor yourself; don’t think. Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you.

Today’s twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.

(The writing practice part will be a different post, but I wanted to include it for completeness. If I remember, I’ll edit this post later to point to that one. Someone please ping me – man, I hate that phrase but still use it – if you don’t see something about establishing a writing practice on here in a week or two.)

When I was in high school, I was obsessed with music. I listened to it anytime I could get away with it – radio in the car to and from school, doing homework at the kitchen table, cleaning the bathroom on a Saturday morning. It didn’t hurt that, for most of ninth and tenth grade, I was also into a guy who was obsessed with music. Now, I always tell people that I really enjoy music and i listen to it a lot, but nothing like back then. Now, it’s background noise or something to sing along to on the way to work. I don’t really, truly enjoy it anymore. It’s just..there.

But that’s not what the prompt asked for, it asked for the three most important songs in my life. Two popped into my head immediately: “If you’re happy and you know it” and “Oye Como Va.” The other, well, I still haven’t come up with a third yet. We’ll see if one identifies itself later on.

If You’re Happy and you Know it (Traditional children’s song)

Anyone who grew up in the US – and maybe elsewhere, but I don’t want to assume – knows “If you’re happy and you know it” and it’s structure. It goes like this:

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands

*Clap* *Clap*

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands

*Clap* *Clap*

If you’re happy and you know it, (and you really want to show it)
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands

*Clap* *Clap*

On subsequent verses, the actions to show how happy you are change. I don’t actually remember the “real” verses after this first one, though it’s easy enough to make them up as you go along.

So, why this song? Because Squirms loves it. If she’s upset, we’ll sing it to her, making her perform each of the actions as we go and it’s like MAGIC. And it’s not always “if you’re happy” – common variations are “if you’re squirmy” and “if you’re fussy.” I guess you could say it represents my life right now – I am her mom. I sing silly songs to get my daughter to calm down, to smile at me.

It makes me smile every time I sing it to her and I often hear the tune in my head when I talk about her other people. It’s her theme. I can’t wait until she’s old enough to clap and squirm and kick and pat along with it though I do like the current Squirms-as-parents’-puppet version for the closeness it requires.

Oye Como Va (Tito Puente)

I grew up on this song and music like it. My dad, he’s a classically trained percussionist who idolizes the speed and passion of the playing of Tito Puente. My mom, she likes music with a good beat. And I grew up in South Florida where you can’t deny the Cuban influences.  You’ve probably heard it before (here’s a link to Santana’s version on YouTube).

I’ll admit, I never knew what the words actually meant though I could piece it together if I wracked my three-years-of-high-school-Spanish brain. Wikipedia tells me it’s “Listen to how it goes.” The whole repeated phrasing (“Oye como va…mi ritmo / Bueno pa’ gozar”) translates to “listen to how my rhythm goes / good for enjoying.” He just about begs you to dance. And I have, many a time, even if it’s just in the shower or in my chair at work.

My favorite version is from a  concert that happened back in 2000 called “Jam Miami.” All of the biggest names in Latin, particularly Cuban, jazz got together for a big concert and they recorded a CD (Amazon link) of it, which I still have in heavy rotation at work (sorry, Dad, I swiped it from you years ago). It’s in a medley with Ran Kan Kan called, appropriately enough, “Medley para Tito.”

I think of my parents and going to concerts in parks in the summer when I hear it. I especially think of going to see Nestor Torres  who was just some dude who played Latin Jazz flute then, at my hometown’s arts festival in elementary school. (My dad made a comment about how he could be really great with a better backup band; a couple years later, his CD popped up at Barnes and Noble on one of those little “listen before you buy” stations.) We got a seat only about five feet from the edge of the stage and I sat there, transfixed, for the entire concert. My brother was somewhere nearby but not quite listening, my mom probably hoping he’d burn off some energy dancing along or running around the grassy seating area. It’s the first concert I remember going to and really enjoying.

A Third Song? Eh.

I can’t think of anything that jumps right into my head and really means anything to me at the same level as these other two songs. I leave you with my list of possibilities: It’s a Small World, Let’s go to the Mall (from How I Met Your Mother), Do Re Mi,…

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