January 30th, 2009
When Barack and Michelle Obama did their first presidential dance, as Beyonce sang “At Last” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-pzlZPRvx8) at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball in Washington D.C., it was a defining moment in history.
We all saw it; I was at home, glued to the proceedings on TV; surely, you'll remember where you were when you saw it, too.
It was an inescapable wedge of history, linked to a melody. It spoke volumes, made great TV, was ballyhooed on the Internet, and later lavished in the papers and magazines.
Songs, indeed, shape our scrapbook of memories.
Certainly, those who were actually at the first-dance inaugural shall never forget the time, the place, the joy, the jubilance, the historic nature of that specific moment.
“At Last,” an old hit of Etta James, instantly became a new symbol of change. At last, no more George W. Bush and the woes he created like the Iraq war or the post-Hurricane Katrina debacle. At last, an African American knight and his first lady, the beacon of hope for a better economy, for a better life, for better governance, and yes, for change.
Music plays a lasting role in our stroll down memory lane. You often remember what you were doing and when and where you were doing it ... with a song attachment.
Like your first crush, your first date, your first kiss. A song comes to mind — one you never forget.
Mine is “To Sir, With Love” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aSFoY3W3NM ), the Lulu hit from the movie by the same name; my wife and I saw the film at least a dozen times in our courting period before we got married.
You must recall your prom theme or song, pegged to your high school profile. It might have been “Unchained Melody,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “You Light Up My Life,” “What a Wonderful World,” “Imagine,” “Good Time Together,” “A Whole New World.”
Mariah Carey’s “Hero” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLC73DB7jE8) became an instant anthem after 9/11, when television — for days — transmitted the chaos of terrorism at the World Trade Center, where firefighters and police tirelessly searched the rubble for victims. A companion tune for that moment in time: Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RssIN3ustUw), resurrected to become the pinnacle of patriotism.
Earlier, Bette Midler’s “From a Distance” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS9nMH40Wpc) became the signature anthem for the first Persian Gulf War, adored by those at home separated from loved ones in battle.
Sometimes, a song plays in the soundtrack of your mind, as you're doing something mundane — like traveling. The tune that pops up when you’re buckled up in your airplane seat might be “Honolulu City Lights,” with pangs about abandoning everything you love about home. Or it might be “Home,” the tune from “The Wiz,” which yearns for the comforts of home. Or Michael Buble’s “Home” (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xwt4_michael-bublehome_music).
One of the formidable “moments” on TV was defined by the late Israel “Bruddah Iz” Kamakawiwo‘ole’s “Over the Rainbow” ditty, with iconic humming intro and ‘ukulele strumming, on NBC’s “ER” series, laced with sadness, not gladness.
An homage, combining “What a Wonderful World” with “Rainbow,”
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiDDfFR81fE), reflects the deep emotional resonance of the fictional Dr. Mark Greene (played by Anthony Edwards). When the storyline tapped his death, “Rainbow”
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E4p6ivvMUc&feature=related0HO) was an integral element that cinched a place in the hall of memory-making tunes — Dr. Greene hears his favorite lullaby via earphones when he dies.
Yes, songs encompass life and death; they ring a bell, tug at the heartstrings, evoke a tear, enrich an unforgettable memory.
So, what's your fave song for a special moment in your life — the tune that lives on puts a smile on your face, whenever you hear it?