This is not a desert island list; although, there are some overlaps. The desert island mix would get Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen, Bright Eyes and the Gershwins, to name a handful. Instead, this is an attempt to tell my life story in 10 songs. It was hard cutting Victoria Williams’ “Love,” Public Enemy’s “He Got Game,” any Kings of Leon or Van Morrison’s “Enlightenment” from the list, but the real life turning points and the magic number 10 imposed some limits. Here we go.

1976 / Age 6
When I thought no one was watching, I loved dancing around the living room. I’d take up every inch of the floor—jumping and plunging and skipping. If I caught a glimpse of one of my parents watching from the corner of my eye, I’d immediately clam up. Luckily, they let me think I had the place to myself. It wasn’t just any music that did it for me—I had favorite songs. I couldn’t stay away from the record player.

At some point, Mom and Dad gave my brother and me an album called, “Disco Party.” Oddly enough, it featured, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman Turner Overdrive.

“She looked at me with them big brown eyes, and said, ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Bu-bu-bay-bee you just ain’t seen nu-nu-nuthin’ yet.’” So not a disco song.

disco.jpg

But boy was it danceable. And it gave me Brown-Eyed-Girl-Pride when all of my Barbie dolls flashed pearly blues.

Those were happy times, lip-syncing & flailing around.

I’m going to copy notgoth’s ingenuity and provide YouTube links for your listening/viewing pleasure. Here’s a little BTO for you (clicking song titles will take you there) – “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.”

1983 / Age 13
A fair amount of my musical taste comes from summer afternoons spent alone with the turntable and my big brother’s record collection—The Beatles, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen.

Somehow, (at a friend’s house?) I can’t remember where, I encountered The B-52s, and found music that I could claim for myself. “Whammy!” is the first album I ever bought. I learned all of the lyrics. And it was so much better to dance to than The Beatles. . . . B-52s “Whammy Kiss.”

It would be a couple years before I had a real kiss, but Fred and Kate got me primed & ready.

1985 / Age 15
Music + Friends = Parties. Loud Parties. I had never heard anything like Led Zeppelin. But I knew I’d be taking them with me for the rest of my life. There are dozens of snapshot memories to go with each riff of Jimmy’s guitar solos – lots of 15-year-old-laughter, 17-year-old-danger and 16-year-old-tenderness, but Led Zeppelin is bigger than that for me. They still top my desert island list . . . Led Zeppelin “Whole Lotta Love.”

1986-1990 / Ages 16-20
I went to my first Grateful Dead show the summer between Junior & Senior years of High School. A big group of us from the neighborhood went. All of my older friends wondered where I got the acid from because, according to them, I looked “effervescent” dancing non-stop with the crowd. I wasn’t high, I was simply having the time of my life: everyone in the audience was transported with me back to the old living room . . . we could dance just as goofily as we wanted to and no one cared.

The first week of college, when all the girls in my dorm manically primped for the first night of sorority rush, I had other plans. I would be camping out for Dead tickets. I knew it was a fork in the road, but without hesitation, I dabbed patchouli oil on my wrists and ankles and headed out to the pavement.

I made it to 27 shows over the course of a few years. Even though I rarely—if ever, listen to the Dead these days, choosing just one tune has proven more difficult than I expected. There’s the ever-illusive “St. Stephen,” the delightful “China Cat Sunflower,” the personally emblematic “Uncle John’s Band,” the tender and Philosophical “Box of Rain,” (no she did-ent) . . . but when it comes down to it, my Dead-following years were also the years of Jamie. My first love.

I really lucked out with that one. Jamie was a gem of a young man. We were together for five years. Not sure how many times we danced to Bobby’s wonderful, “Looks like Rain,” but it was always sweet.

1992 / Age 22
David Bowie’s “Young Americans”
Lucky enough to have nailed a job in my chosen field, I started work (the Grown-up 65-hour-a-week-kind) six days after college graduation. Decked out in my new career clothes, I entered the Operations Department at a post house in Washington, D.C. just as the ’92 Presidential Campaign was heating up. NO, not the post office! A television post-production facility. Where we finished National Geographic Specials and Discovery Channel shows and lots and lots of political campaign spots for then, Governor Bill Clinton (among other candidates).

Working with Clinton’s media agency was the highlight of my early career. They were our biggest client—and did most of their post with us for more than several simultaneous campaigns. There were about six producers (charming, handsome young men, who we called “The Greer Boys”) from the agency who came to supervise edit and voice-over sessions with us day in and day out – pulling long hours, always rushing to make sure the content was as up to date as possible before we shipped hundreds of dubs to hundreds of TV stations. These were the days before cell phones and e-mail were commonly used—so I got to transfer calls from George Stephanopoulos to Mandy Grunwald and rush faxed scripts to the sound booth. The faxes were marked confidential, and the truth is—I never peeked. I was so focused on learning my new trade that it didn’t occur to me what a big deal it was to have access to those scripts. I hate to admit it, but I was oblivious to the political implications of what we were doing. I was just serving our clients as best as I knew how.

On election night, the Greer boys included us at their agency’s party. Much of the evening was marked with the tension of waiting. As various senatorial and gubernatorial races came to a close, victories and disappointments shaped moments and conversations, but most of us were really just biding our time until we knew for certain whether or not Bill Clinton would become our next president.

When the news came in, I found myself linked in a tight circle of shoulders and arms with a dear colleague and our beloved Greer Boys raising toasts of tequila. They had made certain to have David Bowie’s “Young Americans” cued up and ready to play full blast. We hugged and hugged and danced and hugged. My favorite Greer Boy grabbed my shoulders and said, “This moment is so important! We have a new president!” All the elation lasted longer than the song so as soon as it ended the DJ played it all over again. We were the young Americans and whether I knew it or not, we had just had a hand in changing the world.

1994 / Age 24
Shawn Colvin covering “This Must Be the Place”
I made the journey to Los Angeles. Single. One good friend in town. A job in post-production that afforded me what was then, my dream apartment. I didn’t have any furnishings, but I had a home. This is one of the songs that got me through the months of learning how to live alone.
“Feet on the ground. Head in the clouds. I’m okay. I know nothing’s wrong.”

1996 / Age 26
Peggy Lee “Is that all there is?”
I had made it through the transition of moving across country and making a home by myself. Now what? There were some hard years in there. Years when it felt like women around me kept getting married and pregnant, and I kept getting unnoticed or dropped. This was the stage when I dwelt in disappointment, when I habitually played the time-line game of figuring out that by the time my parents were my age, they had each other and a family. I drank alone with Peggy Lee. I gained weight. And I hurt.

1998/ Age 28
Rusted Root “Send me on my way”
Despite the disappointments of “accidentally” entering my late 20’s with nothing to show for it but accumulating debt, fat and loneliness, I found myself on a path. Marianne Williamson lectures led to meditating which led to therapy, which led to writing class and yoga class, which led to new friends which led to hiking. And on the hiking trails, there was tranquility and divinity and solitude and satisfaction.

Rusted Root soothed me as I moved through the disappointment and made peace with the fact that my life would be different than I expected and it was up to me to make my own way. “Send me on my way” was one of the tunes in my mind as I discovered deep joy in my identity as a single woman. I even took myself (alone) to one of their shows at The House of Blues and had a fantastic time – again with the freestyle living room dancing!

2002 / Age 32
Found the guy of my dreams. No games, no questioning, no ambiguity about how we felt. I actually told a friend, “Now I know what Shakespeare was writing about.” One problem, well, two. The guy lived 2500 miles away. And he was, at the time, deeply phobic about flying.
I realized–and got to experience–what a wonderful love song Tom Petty’s “The Waiting” is.

As for the guy, he was worth the wait. He’s sitting right next to me in our home and currently has two frequent flyer accounts.

2007 / Age 38
I’m no longer oblivious about what it will mean to have a new president. I no longer “accidentally” let decades of my life pass. I’m very clear about the fact that I’m responsible for my actions and inactions. I’m dedicated to living life deliberately and gratefully. I want to help those in need as often as possible. I don’t always succeed at all of this, but I’m awake more often than I used to be. Hip Hop done well reminds me of the kind of person I want to be.

Dead Prez’s “Hip Hop” has the kind of fist waving, head banging power of an anthem that epitomizes why the genre will always have a place in my music library.

Date Unknown / Age TBD
Bonus track
This is the song I’d like to have played at my memorial service.
The Circle is Cast …. Couldn’t find the whole thing on line, but here’s a sample.

Ruth, 38, Los Angeles, USA

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