Being Beautiful: Turn up the radio and turn down memory lane

What has the magic power to transport us through space and time back to a moment, whether happy or sad? For some, perhaps it’s a fragrance, a season, a special location. For me, songs are time machines of emotions.

When I hear a classic country song, it jolts me back to the days when I would ride shotgun with my daddy as he belted out the lyrics to some familiar tune from Hank Williams, George Jones or Loretta Lynn.

Whitney Houston’s music sends me traveling through time to moments spent with my mama. We would sing to the top of our lungs, never once coming close to hitting the high notes of “I Will Always Love You,” and Mama would declare that Whitney wore that song out way better than Dolly did.

If I am in my car and a hit from the 80s comes on, I apologize to whomever is with me. The volume goes up and I have been known to bust a move right there with my seatbelt on. My favorite is Madonna’s “Holiday” and believe me, I can get down to that song. Who doesn’t agree that “we all need a holiday.” I can close my eyes, not while driving, and see her performing live on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” complete with black leggings, big earrings, and punk makeup.

Songs such as Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” “Stuck on You,” and “All Night Long” remind me of an awkward ninth-grader sitting beside his girlfriends in chorus class. I drove Mama crazy that year practicing, “Everybody sing, everybody dance, lose yourself in wild romance. We’re going to party, karamu, fiesta, forever. Come on and sing along!”

My friend Hope and I got all dressed up in 80s attire last year—MTV T-shirts, big gold jewelry, fluorescent shoestrings—and sat front row at an all 80s hip hop concert. We shook our neon glowsticks while jamming to Salt n Peppa, Tone Loc, and Vanilla Ice. It took us back to our adolescence when we were the coolest teens around, or so we imagined.

Sometimes music returns at poignant moments that will forever be etched in our memories. My heart was broken into a million pieces when my mama passed, but I stood up beside her and read the lyrics to Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” in that little red brick church. It was our song, and earlier this year I sat at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas holding back the tears while Celine sang it just for me and mama.

So, if you see a middle-aged man sitting at the red light, dancing from left to right, throwing his hands in the air like he doesn’t care, well, it’s probably just me with the volume turned up. You can thank Madonna.

Contact David at [email protected].