Songs become a part of the story of our lives. Their lyrics linger inside of us. We recall those words, but what we remember isn’t what they meant to the person who wrote them. It’s what they mean to us. We relate their lyrics back to the events that have happened in our lives. We interject our personal narrative into their songs, and it feels as though they mirror our own memories and emotions.
Some songs make us happy, while others bring sadness. Some songs connect with our present, and others bring us back to the past. They help us recall memories we’ve forgotten. Some songs are tied to our personal identities and to particular moments in our lives. Playing the song in later years helps us to recall an earlier event as well as the way we felt about it. This is what music does for us. It connects with the story of our lives. It creates meaning. It helps us understand ourselves.
We build a history of music throughout our lives that is unique to us, shaped by our tastes and life experiences. For many of us, it is the closest thing we have to the journal we never wrote or the diary that has long been packed away.
The soundtrack of our lives is an ongoing playlist that we add to with each new experience. Each song holds a different significance, one that evolves as we change and grow as individuals. Unlike old journals and diaries, this soundtrack does not collect dust on a nightstand or in the bottom of a box but is stored on a smartphone that we take everywhere and hold tightly in our hands.
The time had come to collect and share these stories to create a people’s history of music. What you’ll read in Song Stories: Music That Shaped Our Identities and Changed Our Lives are personal accounts of how people’s lives have been impacted by specific songs. Elliott Smith’s “Between the Bars” set Cortney Harding’s romantic notions of adulthood, The Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” played one night at a friend’s place and changed Marc Ruxin’s musical tastes, and Coldplay’s “Lovers in Japan” reminds Caitlin Teibloom of a college breakup and who she became through that experience.
This alternate history, composed of shared song stories, will deepen your understanding of music. It’ll extend your interpretation of a song beyond what it means to you to how the song has been experienced by another and the meaning it has created in his or her life. Reading each story and playing the song will allow you to hear what music sounds like through ears other than your own.
I hope reading this book will inspire you to share your own song story.