The Songs That Made Me

This month Rolling Stone has been asking recording artists for lists of the Music That Made Them.

Nancy Davis Kho of the blog Midlife Mixtape: For the Years Between Being Hip and Breaking One asked some of her friends if we might contribute our own lists of the songs that made US, super-cool mom bloggers that we are.

Here, in the order of their appearance as crucial songs in my life, are some of the Songs That Made Me:

Bad Bad Leroy BrownBAD, BAD LEROY BROWN (Jim Croce, 1973)

One of my earliest memories is being three or four years old, sitting in the backseat of our enormous Chevrolet, and hearing my parents sing along to this song on the radio. They absolutely loved it. I absolutely loved it. Brown was bad, sure, but I wasn’t worried about him hiding under my bed or anything. I mean, he couldn’t have been that bad, since the song was so catchy. My favorite part about the song was that there was the word “damn” in it, and my dad would just belt that part right out. In non-sung contexts, I knew that that was not a nice word.  In this song, however, it was apparently entirely acceptable. This is how I first learned of the transgressive powers of music.

Must be SantaMUST BE SANTA (Mitch Miller, 1961)

Another earliest memory. We spent every Christmas Eve at my Nana’s house, where all my incredibly cool and not-much-older aunts and uncles lived (my mother is the oldest of an eight-child brood). Christmas Eve was the most exciting night of the year, of course, and Mitch Miller and the Gang’s Holiday Sing Along was always on the hi-fi. My grandparents sang along to every song. They are both gone now but we still sing “Must Be Santa” at our family Christmas party every year. And it must be the Mitch Miller version. It’s never Christmas in my heart until I hear that sound of approximately 250 men singing in unison.

Run Joey RunRUN JOEY RUN (David Geddes, 1975)

Thank goodness for Google, or I would never have found this song. I didn’t know the title or the artist, and I’m pretty sure I never did. However I still know every word of the song by heart:

Please Daddy don’t!/ It wasn’t his fault!/ He means so much to me!/ Please Daddy don’t!/ We’re gonna get mar-ried… (sound of gunshot)

Someday, when it occurs to one of my children to ask me what life was like before the Internet and the Xbox, what children possibly did with all that time, I will explain that I spent about 75% of my after-school hours in grade school acting out this song in my friend Heather’s bedroom. It’s about a girl who takes a bullet for the boyfriend who just knocked her up. Sometimes Heather would be Julie and I’d be Joey; sometimes I’d be Julie and she’d be Daddy. My death scenes were amazing.

I miss songs like this. I liked when songs had a plot. Songs like this are why I’m always changing the radio from Hits One Now! or whatever to 70s on 7 whenever the kids aren’t looking.

imgres-5OUT HERE ON MY OWN (Irene Cara, 1980)

Okay this is just the best song ever and that is enough reason for it to be on anyone’s list. But this is the song that I sang over and over into the mirror. This is the song that spoke my personal junior-high truth of not fitting in, of making one’s way, of being afraid and doing it anyway. (How did Lesley Gore KNOW?)

This is the song that I totally sounded JUST like Irene Cara when I sang it. This is the song that I sang when I auditioned for Carnegie-Mellon’s theater department to begin my stellar career.

I didn’t get in.

BorderlineBORDERLINE (Madonna, 1984)

Speaking of knowing my inner thoughts to a spooky degree! Madonna, how did you know that my first boyfriend (freshman year of high school) kept on pushing my love over the borderline?

(I don’t know what that means now, but I sure understood it deeply back then.)

This song is amazing because it’s fast and slow at the same time.  Madonna is sad and empowered at the same time. I believe this is the best vocal Madonna has ever laid down.

This is the song that made all the high school girls dance in a circle. Who needed boys? Not us.

Dancin' in the DarkDANCING IN THE DARK (Bruce Springsteen, 1984)

Okay, maybe there was one boy I needed. At the time I thought it was the boy at my birthday party who gave me the BORN IN THE USA album. Hard as it is to believe now, I had never heard of Bruce Springsteen until then. But as soon as I saw The Boss pull a then-unknown Courteney Cox up out of the audience to dance with him in the “Dancing in the Dark” video, I had a new boyfriend, and his name was Bruce.

This is the closest I ever came to true screaming fangirl adoration. Look at that tush in those jeans.

When that picture was taken, Bruce Springsteen’s tush was 35 years old.

God I’m old.

Sister ChristianSISTER CHRISTIAN (Night Ranger, 1983)

I took piano lessons every week from age 8 to age 17.

I can still read music, kind of. The rest of it is totally gone.

Except for one thing.

To this day, I can sit down at any piano and play the intro to Sister Christian. Like I MEAN IT.


Keep reading! Go check out The Songs That Made:

I Miss You When I Blink

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Butterfly Confessions

Good Day, Regular People



The Flying Chalupa

Elizabeth McGuire

Elleroy Was Here

Midlife Mixtape

Up Popped a Fox

I thought my kids had outgrown LEGOs. I was wrong.

Once upon a time, my two sons– like most children their ages– were truly LEGO-obsessed. Once upon a time, their Christmas lists were all LEGO. Their birthday parties were LEGO-themed. I, who am no baker, even made a LEGO cake. I probably didn’t need to point out the “not a baker” part, based on the photo. But […]

continue reading…

join Listen To Your Mother: NYC at Barnes & Noble on Friday May 8th!

            If you’re in the NYC area, please join me this Friday night at the Upper West Side Barnes & Noble (82nd and Broadway) for a free reading and signing event to celebrate the new anthology LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, as part of The Museum of Motherhood’s “Art of Motherhood” […]

continue reading…

momcation: achieving the escape velocity required

No matter which Real Housewives variation one might watch– and I’ve watched, uh, a few– most of the dramatic action within any given city’s season involves talking about “just getting away with the girls” shopping to get away with the girls getting away with the girls I suppose no one has ever watched Real Housewives for its firm […]

continue reading…

It’s Publication Day for LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER!

Last week I went to a staged reading of a play with a plot that pretty much hinged on the would-you-believe? notion of a CONFERENCE. For MOMMY BLOGGERS. Cause, like, why would they need a conference? What would those silly women have to talk about? Six years ago, I met Ann Imig at a blogging conference. […]

continue reading…

Dear Amelia Bedelia: what the hell is the matter with you?

My first-grader was recently given the assignment of writing to her favorite fictional character. She picked Amelia Bedelia. While “favorite” may be a stretch– as you will soon see– I thought my seven-year-old’s questions were excellent and deserved a larger forum. So here it is: an Open Letter to Amelia Bedelia. Dear Amelea bdelea wiy […]

continue reading…

how far should you push your kid? finding the “optimal push”

I recently watched HBO’s documentary State of Play: Trophy Kids, directed by Peter Berg, creator of the TV series Friday Night Lights. (Since I still have my What Would Tami Taylor Do? bumper sticker on my car, I think Peter Berg has  modern parenting agita nailed.) Trophy Kids follows four youngsters with have undeniable talents in their respective sports, but […]

continue reading…

what is the one best opportunity in your life? (and why aren’t you pursuing it?)

Like most mothers I know, I am also my household’s COO, overseeing everything from who needs new basketball sneakers to where that plug is for that thing. And like most mothers I know, the permission slips and medical forms and airline cost-comparisons and overdue taxes expand to fill all space available, everything I can give them, […]

continue reading…

is it okay to have a “Santa Whisperer” at Christmas?

Is a “Santa Whisperer” a necessary evil at Christmas? You know, someone who knows exactly what you want and then tells your husband, lest you get a PajamaGram? I know all too well about that, by the way. I suppose that’s not the sort of thing that could happen twice; I am lucky enough to have […]

continue reading…

on rushing and gratitude

Today a very wholehearted friend of mine posted this on Facebook and made my head explode:   Remember, if you are criticizing, you are not being grateful. If you are blaming, you are not being grateful. If you are complaining, you are not being grateful. If you are feeling tension, you are not being grateful. […]

continue reading…

Do your kids make their own beds?

Our children’s school principal always takes advantage of our monthly PA meetings to offer those gathered some parenting wisdom. This might be obnoxious if it wasn’t always such good advice, and usually easy to adopt. (I should be reading my children The Complete Works of Beatrix Potter? Done.) But then there was last week. “This morning […]

continue reading…

How old is too old to trick-or-treat?

Is there a mandatory retirement age for trick-or-treating? Is there a maximum allowable height beyond which you stay home and open the door? I ask because my son Connor is in 6th grade, taller than both grandmothers, and is more gung-ho about this year’s trick-or-treating plans than ever. At least about the collecting candy part. The costume choice has […]

continue reading…

Bake It Happen 2014- raising funds and awareness for breast cancer research!

It’s October, which is important for two reasons: it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s the season to eat as many pumpkin-flavored things as possible. Since these are two admirable endeavors, I’m combining them into one delicious awareness- and money-raising endeavor by participating in Bake It Happen again this year. Bake it Happen was started by […]

continue reading…

how to make off-to-school mornings a little easier (for Mom)

This blog has never been heavy on the how-tos. I like to think of it more as a how-not-to guide, a cautionary tale against sweating the small stuff. But our school mornings have gotten a lot easier this fall, and the fix was so simple– so very much easier than all the haranguing from me […]

continue reading…