It’s amazing how quickly the words come back. I’m driving home from aquacise when over the radio comes an unmistakable cadence. It sounds like the Spanish march in Ravel’s Bolero … and then a strident, haunting voice kicks in and it doesn’t. “One pill makes you larger…” A flick of a finger boosts the volume to 18, and I join in at “One pill makes you small.” My head starts bobbing at “And the ones that mother gives you don’t do anything at all.” Suddenly I am back on 4th Watson, working on my history comps project – or at least thinking about working on it – and the song is booming from a floormate’s room, urging me to remember what the dormouse said and “Feed my head.”
I’m sure I’m not the only one this happens to. The store’s PA system starts playing “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and we’re bopping down the cereal aisle, embarrassing a grandchild. We start humming as a cruise line ad offers up “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” We get a bit wistful every time we hear “Imagine,” whether it’s being sung by John Lennon or by anyone from Elton John and Stevie Wonder to Joan Baez, Dolly Parton, or Lady Gaga.
It’s the soundtrack of our teens and college years, and thanks to the hard work of volunteers Fred Rogers, Shirley Anderson Brantingham, and David Davis-Van Atta, with an able assist by Todd Lund, it will also be the soundtrack of reunion.
Labor of Love
These folks arguably took on one of the toughest volunteer jobs. More than 200 tunes were suggested in responses to the online survey conducted in January 2021. Fred, Shirley, and David tabulated the most popular, accessed online versions, added 100+ overlooked gems dating back to 1962, and winnowed the list down to a mere 103 songs from 77 artists or bands — including five by the Beatles (of course), four by Joni Mitchell, and three each by Bob Dylan and by the Rolling Stones. Genres range from blues, folk, and Motown to protest and psychedelic rock.
The list is posted on the class website and on our Facebook page. We are working on ways to include the tunes at reunion (in the Watson lounge and elsewhere), in such a manner that they can inspire, but not overwhelm, conversations and reflections on the way we were.
You don’t have to wait for June, however. Dust off your vinyl or head over to YouTube or your favorite digital music service and get your groove on. I wish you great joy in the process and great memories. Check out the playlist or, as Dylan put it:
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
And may you stay forever young
May you stay forever young.