I frame a lot of my memories, and even my general outlook about things, in music.For example, when I think of childhood, I think about dancing to Monkees records in the den or my dad blasting Jimmy Buffett at the lake.
Tony Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” reverberates in my mind. It was the song that played as I slow-danced with a girl in a middle school dance.
I listened to Cake’s “Going the Distance” before running every cross country race in high school.
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “By The Way” was playing while I made out with a girl at a party the first time I ever got drunk.
When I started smoking, Sublime, 311, Rage Against the Machine and Bob Marley were constant fixtures in the CD player while we rolled around town feeling a lot cooler than we looked.
I recall pumping myself up for an interview listening to N.W.A.’s “Express Yourself” full-blast in the parking lot.
A raucous rendition of The Surfaris’ “Wipeout” was always a favorite request when my band played house parties during my time at UT.
And when I married my best friend and the love of my life, I remember we were both pissed off because the church wouldn’t let us have someone play John Lennon’s “Imagine” on the organ.
But we made up for it at the reception with everything from Van Morrison to Scissor Sisters.
So it should come as no surprise that when I meet people and get to know them, I almost immediately categorize them by musical genres in my head.
I call them ‘musical personalities.’
Not using society’s views or stereotypes of a genre, but by feeling their rhythms and thinking of what musical rhythms and melodies their personality reminds me of.
Here are a few examples: Think of which friends you might put in each category.
Punk – My friend Lucas reminds me of punk because his energy is intense and infectious. It’s loud, discordant.
It is at once righteous and nihilistic and life-affirming.
It’s not always appropriate but it’s full of enthusiasm, vigor, piss and vinegar.
He’s a drummer, so that explains that.
To me, he’s an incarnate example of the Bouncing Souls’ “True Believers.”
Jazz – My friend Ryan reminds me of jazz.
He’s smooth, cool, calm and collected. Always put together, but not in a corny manner.
Like a good jazz artist, he only plays the notes he needs to – he doesn’t over-think or speak out of turn.
He’s complicated, textured, dense and deep.
And even when he displays some darkness, it’s incredibly melodic and smooth. He’s Miles Davis to me.
Disco – My mom makes me think of disco. She’s all for the good times. She’s peppy, she likes to dance.
She likes group unity and goof the like of which can only be displayed through something as silly as dancing along to “YMCA.”
Easy Listening – My dad is James Taylor, John Denver and Jimmy Buffet all rolled into one.
He rolls with the punches, he’s patient, he’s a lover, not a fighter. He’s a peacemaker, a calming presence.
He’s a romantic – he still writes love poems to my mom and dances all across the floor with her at wedding receptions.
He’s “let’s crack open a light beer, sit in the hammock and stare at the clouds.”
He is easy listening.
Funk – My friend Bobby is real funky. He’s stanky, sticky, dirty, lively funky.
His eccentricity and liveliness command attention the moment he bursts through a door a la Cosmo Kramer – in fact, he’s often been compared to him.
Bobby is an up-all-night groove-fest, he’s a one-more-toker.
He’s a come-on-to-your-cousin-at-the-family-gathering.
He’s a my-socks-don’t-match-and-my-car-is-full-of-dents-but-I-couldn’t-be-more-confident-and . . . funky.
I’m thinking my personality is probably folk.
I have lots of ideas and things to say. I am idealistic and sometimes s naive, eternal dreamer.
Simplistic but repetitive rhythms, minor chords, finger-picked acoustics.
I am all about the natural, the real.
I am earthy, critical of modernity, searching as Mr. Young said many years ago, for that Heart of Gold.
So when you think about it, what kind of music does your life create?