Soundtrack of My Life (Thus Far)

A current popular blog theme is the music that shaped the writers’ lives or is entwined with their memories. So I thought I would follow suit, but it’s hard to limit my list. Mind you, I am not saying these are the best songs ever; in fact, some make me cringe, but hearing them will transport me every time.

 Weela Wallia. Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

My dad’s Irish clan loves their Irish songs and this one topped the list for me. An old woman “stuck a knife in the baby’s head; the more she stuck it, the more it bled,” wow, what an image. And then the woman gets hung for her crime; maybe this is why the legal profession appealed to me. Or not. I sang this song in kindergarten and Dad had to explain to the unamused teacher why. His response: he didn’t think anyone would understand me because I talked (and sang) so fast!

 The Butcher Boy. Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Yes, there is a theme here.  The special treat if Grandma Dwyer rode home with your family from the cottage was that she would treat everyone to frozen custard (ah, La Ducs) and we would sing Irish songs (between licking our cones). This song, about a girl who commits suicide after her boyfriend spurns her when she gets pregnant was another favorite. My brother Tommy and I used to serenade our German neighbors with this one when we were about 4 and 7, respectively. I think our mom approved because it was a cautionary tale of the dangers of premarital sex. I’m not sure what our poor neighbors thought.

8 Days a Week. The Beatles

Older sis Mick and her best friend Chris LOVED The Beatles and thus, so did I. But they mocked me endlessly when I asked them how a week could have 8 days. Ah, I still feel the shame, but it didn’t diminish my Beatlemania. And I suppose Mick and Chris’ torture made me tougher (despite the lingering grate phobia).

Be Not Afraid. Bob Dufford & On Eagle’s Wings. Michael Joncas

I hate these songs. All the upper level girls in my Catholic grade school had to sing at funerals while the boys got an extra recess. This was horrifically depressing because the only funerals we sang at were the ones for the extremely elderly, which usually had 5 people in attendance. It embarrasses me to think about how irreverent and disrespectful I was during these funerals, but I loathed them and the blatant sexism. In eighth grade I led a protest and refused to sing at funerals any longer (this included during summer vacation when we were expected to go sing if requested). My friend’s mom said I was committing a sin and at some point I got guilted into again singing for funerals. Mind you, this had nothing to do with the quality of my voice, but rather the need for a critical mass in the choir. As an adult I have sung these songs at countless funerals and while I still hate them, I do it out of love and respect for the deceased. I maintain that it was wrong to force young girls into this role, but I do love the mystical smell of incense.

Thunder Island. Jay Ferguson

Summer of 1978. Cottage. Lazy days on the raft, truth or dare in the attic at night.

Only the Good Die Young. Billy Joel

Same summer; same memories. As a Catholic girl, it gave me hope of being naughty some day even if I didn’t totally understand the lyrics!

Jesse’s Girl. Rick Springfield

My first concert without my parents. Tommy and his friend took my friend and me to Summerfest and we saw Rick Springfield at the Main Stage. Even better – when I couldn’t see anything, Tall Paul put me on his shoulders and I felt so cool.

New Year’s Day. U2

The first music video I remember seeing once we got cable. I LOVED my MTV and watched it for hours on end. Close second in my MTV world was The One Thing by INXS.

A Boy Called Sue. Johnny Cash

My Dad’s best friend Pat would always put this one on the juke box at Irene’s, the smallest bar in Hurley, or was it Ironwood, when we were on our annual ski trips to the UP.

I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues. Elton John

My family moved in the middle of my sophomore year of high school. I was miserable and secretly cried my eyes out to this one.

Relax. Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Dad was driving me somewhere when this song came on and he asked me what the lyrics were. I lied and said I didn’t know. He probably did. I still blush when I hear this song.

I Can’t Fight This Feeling. REO Speedwagon

The plight of every younger sister is that all of your friends have crushes on your brother at some point. This was the anthem for one of my friends and her flirtation with Tommy. No, I won’t name names. But you both know and I still laugh when I hear this song.

Blister in the Sun. Violent Femmes

If you are of a certain age, and from Milwaukee, it is a given that you love the Femmes and saw them often. I had the eponymous album and played it as I got ready for my high school graduation.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles

This song is a two-fer on memory lane. The album was one of the few I took to college. It also was the song that kicked off the Live 8 concert in London in 2005. Matt and I were driving through the English countryside when the broadcast started and U2 with Sir Paul sang this song. Priceless.

 Respect. Aretha Franklin

My college roommate Amy and I would put this song on the jukebox in the bar we would hit after working our shift at the Dane County Coliseum. We would dance like maniacs and belt it out.

Come on Eileen. Dexy’s Midnight Runners

My middle name is Eileen. I don’t know any songs with Kerry.

 Baby Can I Hold You. Tracy Chapman

When I lived in Italy, some friends asked my roommate Jean and me to translate this song for them. It was good Italian practice. Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry and John Lennon’s Imagine were other favorites at that time.


UW-Madison, Class of 1990. Go Badgers!

The Parting Glass. Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Mom defied the priest and we sang this song at Dad’s funeral. Good for any ending.

Angel. Robbie Williams

This treacly song was all the rage when my family toured Ireland with an entourage of friends. My musical friend Julie predicted she would have all of us singing it within a few days and she was right. We even had choreographed hand motions as our “performances” were on the long car rides.

Fly Me To The Moon. Frank Sinatra

Mom loved Frank and I came to share her love. Long before meeting Matt, I knew that if I ever married I wanted this to be the wedding song. Thankfully, Matt concurred.

 Watching the Wheels. John Lennon

I played this song on my way to and from work when I desperately wanted to quit a career that other people thought was great. “I just have to let it go.” And I did.

What are your song memories?

14 thoughts on “Soundtrack of My Life (Thus Far)

  1. I LOVE THIS POST! I’m at work and I should be doing other stuff, but when I saw the post I decided to read that instead. Glad I did!
    My song memories? Well, I’d have to think more about it but here are six off the top of my head:
    In My Life–The Beatles (wrote a paper about it in college and had to listen to it over and over again on my Walkman!); Life in One Day–Howard Jones (Love Howie and have fond memories of that concert); I’m An Adult Now–Pursuit of Happiness (Played it at the radio station at Marquette and I remember playing it on my show the day I turned 21); I Love How You Love Me–Bryan Ferry (Jarrett and I learned how to foxtrot to this song for our wedding); Beautiful Boy–John Lennon (This was playing when Jarrett and I first got to hold Trevor); Firework–Katy Perry (I’m not really a Katy Perry fan but this is the song that was playing when Ian took his bow after his first play. I think of it as the beginning of him being willing to try something new and I love that!)
    Thanks for the musical stroll down memory lane, Ker!

    • Your first two selections almost made my list too, the second for obviously the same reason – I think that was the first time I went to a concert with only a friend and not one of my family members. What fun we had!

  2. I think that eponymous is the REM record but I could be wrong. Funny, I was telling the kids about Grandma and LaDucs when we were there last week.

  3. I love this post, Kerry! 2 quick comments… A thing that most people don’t know about me is that I have a constant soundtrack running through my head – there’s a song for every situation! Also, I think I was at that same Rick Springfield concert. Summer of ’83? The funny ending to my story is that we didn’t actually get to see RS because my older (ahem, less cool) sister was convinced that the opening band (Quarterflash, maybe?) was RS. I was too young and dumb to know any better.

    • Next time we are hanging out I will ask you every 3 1/2 minutes what song is playing. Oh wait, I am probably the only one who will not put longer songs, except very rare exceptions, on her play list! I love that you were (sort of) at the RS concert too. I wasn’t sure whether it was ’82 or ’83, but I knew it was one of them so thanks for clearing that up! If it is any consolation, in college we went to Alpine where the BoDeans were opening for Elvis Costello and left after the BoDeans. How dumb was that?

      • Pretty sure it was ’83! Too funny about the Elvis Costello show – bet that would’ve been a great one to see. 🙂

      • I’ve been humming (and singing only in my head) The Butcher Boy since your post. I will confess that while I never have seen RS in concert I once had a dream (in the 80’s when he was still a soap star) that I met and lived with him (I never figured out where that dream came from since I really wasn’t a fan!?!). Of course many of your early songs are on my list asRIn well, but your post did get me thinking of my own sound track. I think I should formalize it and actually write it down.

        I find it interesting that Johnny Cash reminds you of skiing up north when for me it’s always listening to Willie Nelson–same experience but different songs. Isn’t it funny how that works?. Ring of Fire reminds me of our Ireland trip as does Robbie Williams of course. I can’t hear that song without laughing.

        Kerry, you & I made up for Elvis Costello when we saw him a few years ago at Summerfest.

        How fun—thanks for the post.


  4. Do you feel better getting your secret RS crush off your chest after 30 years? 😉 Speaking of, the opening chords of Smoke on the Water also should be on my list. And yes, the Elvis Costello concert at Summerfest was one of the best I’ve seen and such a fun night! Can’t wait to see your list!

  5. You are welcome for teaching you to love the Fab Four; also for the implosion therapy for grate phobia.
    AAACK!!! Smoke on the Water! Actually, I can play that bass line (sort of).
    Kerry, you forgot “Downtown” for your list. Not the Petula Clark version, but your own altered version, featuring the lyric, “Downtown where the lights are shining bright, visit your dentist at one o’clock.” Repeat 12 times, advancing one hour each verse. Repeatedly bend your right knee a la Elvis as you sing it as fast and as garbled as possible.
    My soundtrack, at least in part. It’s hard to choose just a few.
    –LOTS of big band music (my mother’s daughter). Learned to dance with her in the kitchen after dinner. Maybe that’s why the dishes never got done at our house. Oh well… Bonus points if anyone can name the whistler who performed with the Ted Weems Orchestra.
    –Echo Valley 2-6809 (Partridge Family) & Everyday People (Sly and the Family Stone): I got PF “Sound Magazine” from Mom & Dad and “S&FS Greatest Hits” from sister for 5th or 6th grade b-day. I was a confused youth. Still have both, play one more often than the other, you guess which.
    –Burning Down the House (Talking Heads): Listening to this and other THs’ songs throughout grad school and during breaks from studying for our comprehensive exams.
    –Make Me Yours (Paul Cebar and the R & B Cadets): Dancing and watching them at Century Hall after having a Centurion burger. MMM! Still miss that place & the R&B Cadets.
    –Life in Motion (Eye to Eye): Theb, daiquiris, purple “groin” cloths, dancing in the rain.
    –Just to Walk That Little Girl Home (Mink DeVille): Dancing with future hubby at a party upstairs from the Downer Theater.
    –Mr. Bob Dobolina (Del the Funky Homo Sapien): Made us laugh first time we heard it on a road trip. Every once in a while we hear a name with a great rhythm like BD and we sing it — and still laugh.
    –When a Man Loves a Woman (Otis Redding): Our wedding song, per hubby’s request. I concurred.
    –Mack the Knife (Bobby Darin): Father/daughter dance at my wedding. My dance w/ Dad anytime.
    –Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai (Hapa): Reminds me of family in HI and being at the beach.
    –Say Hey (Michael Franti & Spearhead): Laughing/crying with relief as hubby tried singing this after surgery, still whacky from the anesthesia. He doesn’t remember, but I do.

    • Great list, Chris! I actually considered Downtown for my list but I am not sure that I have an actual memory of singing this song or an implanted one from you and Mick. That said, I still have no idea what the actual words are to the song! When I am home, I want to hear the story of the purple “groin” clothes. Or maybe not!
      I hope your wrists are recovering well!

      • Thanks, Kerry. In PT now. OUCH!
        I can’t believe I didn’t add this one to my initial list… that’s what happens when I try to organize my thoughts at nearly 1 in the morning:
        “I’ve Just Seen a Face” (Sir Paul McCartney): Live at the stadium in sweltering heat this past summer. Great show and my favorite Beatles song.
        Some evening after refreshments, we’ll cue up “Life in Motion” and fill you in on PGC’s. Good times! There is photographic evidence in the form of hoe movies of you singing “Downtown” in the living room of the 55th Street house. Maybe we can find that, too.

  6. Since you are a Femmes fan, Doug wants you to know that his sister has been on & off friends with Brian Ritchie ever since 5th grade and Doug sold him a Fender Mustang bass, which he misses.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.