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

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Kir May 15, 2015 at 12:19 pm

I could have written this list and for every song you picked, I was nodding and my eyes were filling with tears. We grew up in the same places so it makes sense that our songs might be similar. Thanks for sharing these. 🙂


Amy Wilson May 15, 2015 at 2:47 pm

Thanks Kir! Hope you do a list too


uppoppedafox May 15, 2015 at 1:29 pm

So many good ones! Jim Croce – I loved so many of his songs! And how could I fit Borderline though, if forced to pick an early Madonna song, I’d probably go with Crazy for You but Borderline is sooooo good.


Amy Wilson May 15, 2015 at 2:47 pm

Crazy for You is NOT my favorite Madonna vocal. But it does fit the similar slow and fast at the same time category.


Nancy Davis Kho May 15, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Oh my god, Run Joey Run. I was acting it out up in Rochester, though I had no supporting cast member. And you have to check out Loretta Lynn’s “Mad Mrs. Leroy Brown” off Van Lear Rose, which Jack White produced. It’s awesome.

SO glad you joined up!


Amy Wilson May 15, 2015 at 2:46 pm

See THAT was the 70s. There were songs with stories in response to OTHER songs with stories. It was like Homer.


Linda Roy May 15, 2015 at 2:20 pm

Wow, Out Here On My Own! I sang that at many auditions too. And alone in my bedroom. What a great song. Borderline is still my all-time favorite Madonna song. And Mitch Miller! That brings back memories for sure! Jim Croce embodies the 70s. Just love him. Just hearing his voice takes me right back.


Amy Wilson May 15, 2015 at 2:46 pm

thanks Linda! I’m not a true rock and roller so looking forward to reading the list of a professional


Arnebya May 15, 2015 at 2:27 pm

I AM SCREAMING! I had Irene Cara and had to take it off and it hurt so much but it truly belongs there more than at least one of the ones I left. Listen when I tell you that hers was the FIRST album I bought with my own money. And yes, I still have it. (I could sing Anyone Can See JUST. LIKE. HER.)


Amy Wilson May 15, 2015 at 2:45 pm

I am ashamed to say I did not own her solo album. I might have to get it. Crazy how there were so many of us that sounded just like her.


Lisa Rae @ smacksy May 15, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Ode to Billy Joe was my Run Joey Run. Love all of these! xo


Liz McGuire May 15, 2015 at 6:17 pm

The next time I see you, we are finding a piano bar, getting drunk and you are playing Sister Christian while we all sing along! It must happen.


Amy Wilson May 16, 2015 at 1:08 pm

*cracking knuckles* gotta practice


TheRandomPenguins May 15, 2015 at 8:07 pm

Bad Bad Leroy Brown! I was obsessed with that song as a child.

Also: I like that we both used Springsteen’s behind in our posts.


Amy Wilson May 16, 2015 at 1:08 pm

So glad to have found a kindred spirit.


Charlene Ross May 21, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Fantastic! Madonna was (and still is) a goddess for sure! And OMG – Run Joey, Run! GAAAAAH!!!! My best friend Dale and I would blast that song every time it came on the radio. (And I’m pretty sure we were acting it out in her bedroom too!) 🙂


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