My three sisters, older brother and I grew up on the very chilly East Coast in a town west of Pittsburgh. Although they were much older than me, and had already moved out of the house, we always spent the Holidays together. My favorite memories of Christmas are connected to the MUSIC. My sister had a Beach Boys Christmas album that we would play every year while we wrapped presents. I would daydream that I lived in California and the music would just take me to another world. “White Christmas,” by Bing Crosby, was also another family favorite. My other sister would sing that song every day and even after Christmas was over, would still sing it and make me smile. I will never forget my Christmas wish for Santa when I was 8 – to have Pete Townshend come to my house, give me a guitar and teach me how to play. Needless to say,that never happened, but my sisters and I DID get to see the WHO several years ago. But, I digress. I now have a daughter of my own, and I know how important music is in shaping someone’s life, memories and personal growth. This year will be her first Christmas, and we’ve listened to the Beach Boys Christmas many, many times already. Happy Holidays!
Take a moment to let us know your favorite music gifting memory. Then read what others have said ... the stories here are truly inspiring.
They say that music feeds the soul – it does. However, there are those songs where the words and the notes blend together so perfectly, causing you to take that big deep breath. Sometimes the hair stands up on your arms and you can actually feel it – really feel it deep in your gut. Those are the special moments, the special songs that create memories. Like when my sister and I somberly drove home on snow covered roads after just coming from visiting my uncle in the hospital and Alabama’s song, “Christmas in Dixie,” was playing. Now, even after many years, we still tear up when that beautiful song comes on. Or listening with my daughter Dana to Josh Turner singing “Your Man” and telling her that I was going to make it my mission to fix her up with him because I wanted him for my son in law. (Oops! I didn’t know he was married!) Or knowing that every event that my husband and I attend, if they play Louie Armstrongs, “It’s a Wonderful World”, that he takes my hand and we dance, no matter where. Music can make you cry, it can make you laugh – it just makes you feel. And those feelings are what memories are all about.
My yearbook inscription would be the same if I could choose it: Be happy, healthy, and successful, and always listening to music. I went with my mom and younger sister to Pop concerts, then I switched to Rock. I’d leave the shows still feeling giddy, thrilled, charged, and once in shock. My first time seeing U2 in Boston, sitting so far away, I never dreamed I’d later be so close when Bono started Sunday Bloody Sunday! A few rows back, with seats behind the stage in Pittsburgh – May 2001, I’m not sure if I cried or froze I was so overcome. I still get emotional when telling about that night – I’ve seen them in three more cities, but that’s still my highlight!
Give the gift of music. That’s exactly what she did! “My name is Loretta Williams, born in 1938, I am 72, but I look 27!” That’s the kind of women she is, full of life and can turn any frown upside down in all that she does. Upon one soul food Sunday, after the biggest event in my life to date, an artist talent showcase which presented the opportunity to catch the ears like fish on hooks of with such A & R’s like Jay Ellis from Rap a lot, Sarah J from PMP Worldwide, Tony G from G-Unit and Serge from Atlantic Records. After my 3 song, 9 minute and 12 second set, call me bass a master! But, as my Nana prepared the corn bread, black eye peas and rice, fried chicken, potato salad, and other southern inspired items, she pulled me aside and brought me down stairs. As Nana led me to the living room, she asked me ever so kindly to take a seat. Nana looked me deep into the windows of ones soul and gazed with a certain whimsicality. With the piercing look of wisdom and the fear of the lord in her eyes she stated, “Jerry, I want my flowers while I’m still alive. I am proud of you, son! You say your doing this music thang, so you gots to know where your coming from, before you can know where your going.” Next, Nana points me in the direction of vinyl the gold. There lies in the corner of the downstairs living room a three foot stack of records! All original LPs, some still encased in plastic, dating as far back as 1949. I lost my mind! I shrieked, I squealed, I yelled, I hugged, I kissed, then bushed off the decades of dust and cobwebs and read the names aloud. John Coltrane, Red Foxx, James Brown, Black Moses? Nana, Isaac Hayes was Black Moses? I set that album cover aside from the monstrous stack of albums. That album jacket is currently in my vocal booth. Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, B.B. King, Elton John and the list goes on. “Jerry, this is the families collection of records. This music has helped us through the good times, bad times, times of celebration & demonstration. Now it’s yours. What are you gonna do with it?” She put her hands on her knees, as she grabs her muumuu, and walks upstairs without saying a word. She got to the top of the stairs & yelled, “Boy, you better come upstairs before this food gets cold!” And that was my gift of music! Thank you, Nana!
Every year, my foster mother would leave a gift in the mailbox on my birthday. It was my 15th birthday when she received permission from my parents to take me out. I was so happy to see her. She told me we were going to go on a shopping spree. I had never been and I didn’t know what to expect. We arrived at Target, and she says get whatever you want. I stood there in shock. I had never been told to pick anything. I walked around the store for a while undecided. She gave me the idea of a music album. I never had my own CD before. It would be my first. The idea was perfect. I absolutely loved music. I turned the corner of the music aisle, and there my foster sister stood. She ran to me, held me in her arms and we cried. After a short reunion, I chose Mariah Carey’s “Rainbow” album, and a portable compact disc player. I knew about Mariah from sneaking to watch her on MTV and writing down all of the lyrics to her songs. My adopted parents were very religious and strict. They didn’t allow, what they called “secular music,” in the house. As soon as I got home I hid the album and rushed to my room. I opened the case and realized all the lyrics were written on the pages. This was one of the happiest days in my life. I had never seen anything like that before. I went to bed that night secretly listening to Mariah with the sheets over my head. I feel asleep with the headphones in my ear listening to “Can’t Take That Away” on repeat. Music touched my heart that night and fuels my existence to this day. Love is the leading lady in my heart and music plays her understudy every night.
Oh soooo many favorites! I think the one that stands out the most for me was the 49th Awards where the Dixie Chicks won Album, Record and Song of the Year. Under a heavy spotlight of ridicule for years after the political comment that banned their music from radio stations across the country & cost them so many fans, it was almost a night of redemption for them! It was a relief to me, as a fan of THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, as well as a fan of talented musicians! Music, in any genre, is our moral right, our moment to express our inner most feelings, desires & beliefs. Even though it was a spoken comment, they have a song that talks about killing a man who abuses his wife “Goodbye Earl”, based on non fictional characters. If the lyrics were spoken, they would be more offensive than the comment Natalie made about “being embarrassed she’s from the same state as the President”. Thank you Grammy’s for acknowledging talented musicians and the art of making music along with freedom of expression! Thank you for restoring and keeping the faith in our artistic lively hood ♥ “Music is moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind and charm and gaiety to life and to everything” ~Plato~
When I was seven years old, my friend played some little pieces on piano, and it was like magic to me. She is partly to blame for me being involved with music for 25 years now. In the summer of 2003, my parents took me to Budapest, Hungary to see and hear U2 live, and I’ll be eternally grateful to them, for that was a truly amazing and completely new experience and meant a lot to me. One of the most recent memories, but not less valuable, is Evgeny Kissin’s piano recital that was held in Belgrade on November 13,2010. It was an excellent performance of “Fantasiestucken op.12″ and “Novelette op.8″ by Schumann and all 4 Ballades by Chopin. Still “Scherzo op. 31(b-flat minor)” by Chopin that was played in the encore I will remember till the day I die.
My grandmother was so many things to me. She was a Mother, Grandmother, care provider, and protector. One thing she wasn’t was a good dancer! My friends and I loved coming home after school and watching MTV to let the music take us away and make us feel happy, silly, fun whatever it was at that time. Apparently it did the same thing to my grandmother, because once that new artist with their hip hop or the bleeding heart with their love ballads started up, she would really get into the groove and come into the living room and start dancing. She made my friends laugh and made me purple faced with embarrassment, but I’ll never forget what an important role music played in my relationship with my grandmother.
My best Christmas memory was the year that my mom purchased a pair of “HIT STIX” for me. For those that may not know, Hit Stix electronically brought to life ‘Air Drumming’. I had been playing drums for a couple years when she got me the ‘magical sticks’. My mom had her reservations about buying me a “boys’ toy,” because it was not okay for a little girl to do boy things. Looking back, this is quite a funny story. I dont think she knew just how serious and passionate I was about playing drums. Presently, I am a Berklee College of Music Alumni. My principal instrument is Drumset/Percussion. God bless her heart. She had no clue, but it was the toy that made the world of me owning my own drums come true. I’m thankful for those memories. Happy Holidays!
It was the late 80s, when I had just entered college. I used hang around with a friend of mine two years older than I, and also from the same school. His father gave him a gift of a Philips music system, equipped with 8 band graphic equalizer and an amplifier. The sound boxes were wooden, and that was the best possible sound that we could afford to hear in those days. We used to save money by sacrificing our lunch and spend the amount on buying tapes at the end of the month. One Sunday afternoon, as I visited him, he showed me a new tape – “Grateful Dead: Steal Your Face”. Looking at the cover, it seemed like it would be Metal. However, I urged him to play it, and went through all of the songs. I simply couldn’t like it. It was a new sound that I was not quite familiar with, and I was more into authentic Blues and R&B at that point in time. After a few days, he played the same album again. This time, I kind of started to like the groove. That changed my life. I was 19 years old at the time, and now I’m in my early 40′s. I’ve been listening to GD all of these years, and I believe I’ll never get bored. “What a long strange trip it has been!”.
In grade school, there was a special meeting one day where the high school band came and played music for us. They told us that that year we’d be able to pick an instrument and start taking music lessons at school. I fell in love with the idea of playing flute and was incredibly excited to run home and tell my parents all about it that day. I was even more excited when they actually bought me a flute and I got to take it to school for my very first lesson. I was absolutely terrible for a while, and essentially just made high pitched squeaking noises for quite some time. But, I took that flute just about everywhere I could, even bringing it along on vacations and other trips so that I could keep practicing. Now I’m fortunate enough to work in music, have a degree in it, and play several other instruments. Still, it all started with that gift of my first musical instrument.
Alan Jackson’s lyrics, “Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day,” really means a lot to me. I do remember – every minute – because my Mom survived being in the WTC on 9/11. This song is just a touching reminder to never, never forget that day! My world did stop turning on 9/11 … until later in that afternoon, when I finally received a call from my Mom that she was safe and coming home! She was on the 54th floor of WTC 2, and to this day, her escaping that building was a miracle in my eyes!!
Over the last 30 years or so music has always punctuated my life, but was merely background music to my days. Layer upon layer of responsibilities buried the young woman who used to dance and feel the joy released by music. However, since listening to a newly emerging global star for the last year and a half, I have felt the layers peel away. The person emerging was wiser, but still felt the joy of music to the very core. I now travel to concerts and have met people from all over the world. My life has a beautiful new layer above the quiet bookkeeper working out of my home. I dance, I sing, I close my eyes and am transported on a journey that the song carries me on. The catalyst has been the exquisite voice of Adam Lambert. The tone, the stellar vocals, the control, the beauty and fun are decanted like a fine wine by Mr. Lambert. I drink it in, fulfilling a thirst for tribal rhythms and joy I had forgotten I needed. Music is the catalyst for this renewed joy and my life will no longer delegate music to be mere background any more.
About 10 years ago, shortly before our first son was born, I wrote a song to sing at his baptism worship service. I recruited a couple of other musicians from the University where I worked and we sang it at his baptism. That was probably the most difficult singing moment I have ever had, and I’ve been writing, performing, and leading worship for 20 years or so. When you hear the words of your child being brought into the kingdom of God for the first time, tears are not going to stay back, no matter how many times you practice. Peace, Hope, and Merry Christmas.
Two years ago, I was in Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, recovering from hip replacement surgery. Following the operation, I spent a week in recovery on the spinal rehabilitation floor of the hospital, where most of the patients were either quadriplegics or paraplegics, living in wheelchairs with no hope of ever walking again. My roommate was a beautiful young woman named Laura Tagasheva (then 26 years old) from Kazakhstan, living and working in New York’s Westchester County, who had been brutally attacked in a mysterious (and unsolved) crime, and left on the street in the middle of the night with a broken neck. She was completely paralyzed from the chest down, requiring full-time care with no hope of leading a normal life. One of Laura’s only pleasures in life was listening to music. She spent all her time curled up in bed with her laptop, listening to music on her headphones, and connecting with the outside world via Facebook. (See more about her incredible story at www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=70901579004.) Laura loved my stories about being in the music business for 30 years. Although she didn’t grow up with Western rock and roll, she loved American pop music, hip-hop, and dance. Music helped her cope with the physical limitations she was now destined to endure, and seeing her smile made me realize the power of music to change this one special person’s life.
My grandfather was probably my favorite person. I was his first grandchild and we shared a special bond. When he died, I was given the opportunity to play at his funeral. I’ve never been more proud than I was in those moments, and I’ll never forget how each note and chord felt to play. I’ve played guitar in bands for years, sang in choirs, DJ’d at clubs, and have been on tour, but that day, those three minutes, beat all the rest.
One day I was working at my job and noticed I was planning our jobs right out of the good USA. I thought, our company knows what they are doing right? I was then asked to take a layoff severance package from work along with 250 other people. I was a Production Planner and saw the signs, but did not think it would impact so many of us. It was hard to find another job paying what I was making. Good thing I was blessed to not have high credit card bills, just my mortgage. I then was finished with the contract job I had. I was at my soul searching deep part of my life and thought, okay, I am forty-three and healthy minus the worries and stress. I couldn’t call old friends, and didn’t want to be embarassed about not working since they were happy and still with the company. I prayed and kept the faith. One day I was watching a Martina McBride song on you tube and thought she was singing to me,”This One’s For The Girls”. I heard she was coming to town and wrote to her. She or her manager actually wrote me back and kept my faith from falling into drugs or alcohol to wash my pain away. She and Heart are so blessed and care about others, not just themselves. It is in their music and lyrics. Martina McBride saved my life. I hope she knows how wonderful and special she is, and so is whoever sent us the tickets to see her up close on the floor, a few rows from her. Concrete Angel and Wild Angels was heard and felt through my bones and it touched my heart to know that there really is still good in life and people. Music is so beautiful and is even better when it is shared. Mahal Kita, to you Martina McBride, Ann & Nancy Wilson!
When I was 6 years old my dad took my sister and I to our first concert, Elton John. I remember being so excited that I was going to get to see the “Lion King” singer. Our seats were so far back we needed binoculars to see him, but I didn’t even care. Even though I was too young to really appreciate it, and even though my dad had to wake me up so I wouldn’t miss the “Lion King” songs, I will never forget my first real concert.
I went to see my first concert when I was six years old. I was obsessed with Madonna at the time; I would invite friends over, force them to dress like her (including a mascara made mole right above the lip), and then sing along to her music videos on MTV. When Madonna’s Vogue tour came around, my mom got tickets and my life was complete. Ten minutes into the concert, I had the sudden urge to pee (possibly from excitement) but refused to go to the bathroom and miss any parts of the show. I held it in for the whole concert, including the encore. I may have kidney damage, but that’s the price one pays for the love of Madonna.
My memory is of when I proposed to my wife at a music show in Glasgow with the help of amazing musician David Ford. My words are not as eloquent as my now wife’s, so I would like to paste the blog she wrote about the morning after our engagement. “I said YES. Writing this a little is difficult because I am still in a state of shock… October 25th, 2007 was the best day of my life. Shaun and I went to Glasgow to see David Ford… Once the show started, my David Ford induced nausea subsided and I lost myself in his music. He did one hit after another and I swear, that man can do no wrong on stage. Toward the end of the set, David Ford started talking to the audience. ‘It’s etiquette to not have conversations during a show,’ he said. ‘But there are some cases where I don’t mind. And I think we could make an exception.’ The next words out of his mouth were, ‘Where’s Shaun?’ Shaun, MY Shaun, raised his hand and suddenly the crowd parted and we were standing in the middle of the venue. All eyes were on us. David Ford continued, ‘This is Shaun, and this is Lisa, and I think they need to have a conversation.’ Out of nowhere (or maybe his coat pocket), Shaun pulled a gorgeous white box containing the most beautiful engagement ring I have ever seen. -white gold. square cut diamond.- ‘Will you marry me?’, asked Shaun, my Shaun. David dedicated the next song, ‘Song for the Road’, to us by saying, ’This is for Shaun and the future Mrs.Shaun.’ It turns out, Shaun had the whole thing planned for ages and even had a private meeting with David Ford before the gig to plan how it was going to happen!”