Recording Memories One Sound at a Time
To Dick Clark, "Music is the soundtrack of our lives." What does your soundtrack sound like?
Dick Clark taught me to dance.
But watching the big kids on American Bandstand—in black and white at 3:30 p.m. every day after school—did. The jitterbug, the stroll and, of course, the Twist.
Clark died April 18 at the age of 82. While following news coverage about his extraordinary place in music industry history and his impact on 20th century American pop culture, I thought about something he often said in interviews: “Music is the soundtrack of our lives.”
His passing got me thinking about how important sound—musical and otherwise—is to our lives, our memories, our being.
There are summer sounds. Winter sounds. Joyous sounds and profoundly sad sounds.
The soundtrack of my mother’s life, which she shared with me, included listening to Jack Brickhouse call a Cubs games on a lazy summer afternoon, Texaco’s Saturday radio broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera House and her effervescent laugh.
(After many a day spent listening to any or all of her five children annoyingly repeating, “Mommy, mommy, mommy,” she would joke, “I’m going to change my name!”)
My parents stopped whatever they were doing when they heard That’s My Desire by Frankie Laine on the radio or TV and danced and laughed around the house.
I have been fortunate not to hear firsthand the frightening sounds of war or the anguished wail of a mother who has lost a child to gun violence.
Some sounds I have heard I will never forget.
Sounds that, even when you hear them as a 12-year-old, you know life will never be the same.
Walter Cronkite: ”From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official. President Kennedy died … “
Sounds that send thrills down your spine and make you want to jump and scream for joy.
Ed Sullivan: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles!”
Sounds that make you feel tiny, yet make you think you can touch the sky.
Neil Armstrong: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
And, there are sounds I would give anything to hear again—Grandma calling us in to dinner in her Calabrese accent; my father’s corny jokes; my all-grown up nieces’ little-girl giggles.
Thanks to the wonders of DVD, every Christmas season I can hear one of many wonderful scenes from It’s a Wonderful Life:
A wanderlust George Bailey: ”You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?"
Uncle Billy: "Breakfast is served, lunch is served, dinner …”
George Bailey: “No, no, no, no. Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”
I invite you to pause for a moment and listen. What sounds do you remember?