What is the music that defines your romance? For some people, the answer comes quickly. Like my mom, for instance, when I called her up recently and asked her that very question.
"It would have to be `Always'", she said. "Of course, there was also Jo Staffords’ "I’ll Be Seeing You” and Hoagy Carmichael's `Stardust', and `Witchcraft' by Frank Sinatra." After a few more seconds, she added, "When your dad and I first moved to Memphis, `Sentimental Journey' was big. We used to love Glenn Miller." The more she thought about it, the more songs and performers she was able to recall.
A little while later, I called my mother-in-law and asked her the same question. She thought for a minute and then said, "We loved `String of Pearls' and `In the Mood'." Later in the afternoon, my father-in-law called me back to report that Tommy Dorsey was also a favorite of theirs. And then he went on to list a whole bunch of tunes that they had enjoyed during their young courtship together.
It wasn't just their particular generation that felt this way. My grandmother once told me she and my grandfather loved to listen to "I'll See You in My Dreams", and "Five Foot Two", and Paul Whiteman's "Whispering", when they were at Simmons College in the 1920's. She lived to be 97, and those tunes stayed fresh in her mind until the day she died.
I'm not a bit surprised. There's something powerful about music. It can convey feelings like nothing else can. A beautiful needlepoint on my friend Deborah’s wall says it best: "For heights and depths no words can reach, music is the soul’s own speech.” I think this is especially true when it comes to the music of romance, for at no other time do our emotions so far outstrip our ability to express them.
So what’s the music that I associate with falling in love with my husband? That’s easy. Tweaking a line from the late Princess Diana: "There were three of us in this romance” – Marc, me, and John Denver. It was 1972 and we were just going off to college. I don't know what it was, but there was something special about Denver's music. It was clean and pure. You could understand all the words. You could sing along with it. And even though you knew you would never really do it, you could at least dream about ditching your complicated life and heading for Aspen, Colorado.
In our case, Marc would play and sing "Sunshine on My Shoulders" and "Country Roads" on his guitar while I, with my low alto voice, belted out the harmony. We spent hours (when we probably should have been studying) sitting on the grass under a tree on Baylor’s campus, singing and smiling at each other, while the warmth and the music and the love swirled around us. I will never forget it, even if I live to be 97.
Of course not every song linked to somebody’s romance is particularly "romantic.” (I’m sure there are couples out there who, when they hear Michael Jackson’s "Thriller”, turn to each other and say, "Aw, listen Baby, they’re playing ‘our song’”.) The point is that music is our memory’s own way of adding a soundtrack to the scenes that were playing out in the course of that lovely life changing event known as falling in love. When our parents hear the music of the Big Bands, they remember dancing. Lots and lots of dancing. My grandparents, on the other hand, being respectable students at a Baptist college, certainly never danced to their favorite tunes. Instead they recalled listening to them while sitting side by side on the porch swing after Sunday dinner. As for Marc and me, even though it’s been almost forty years, well, every time we hear "My Sweet Lady” we both still get a little wistful for a guitar and blanket on the grass, and maybe a good old Dr. Pepper (after all – it was Waco, Texas, you know!)
A few years back John Denver died. Sadly, Glenn Miller is gone now too. And so is Patsy Cline. And Karen Carpenter and Buddy Holly and Jim Croce and Bing Crosby. And Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra and George Gershwin and John Lennon and Jo Stafford.
But even though they are gone, their music lives on in the hearts of those who fell in love listening to it. Not for just an hour. Not for just a day. Not for just a year. But always...