Originally posted to Facebook September 29, 2009 at 12:25 PM. Written as a college course assignment.
Alana H. Bowman | ABK48
CO 4323 Mass Media and Society
August Mini-Monthly | August 31, 2009
I was born on May 24, 1974 to David and Sherrie Bowman. They brought me home to the little yellow house on Highway 18 in Johns, Mississippi. My dad was, and still is today, a drummer. I’ve heard the story many times of his playing on television while in high school. He played the drums and sang Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay on Teen Tempos hosted by Judy Moon Denson. Wayne Moore was on lead guitar, and Gary Robinson was on bass guitar. After I was born, Daddy played regularly at the VFW for extra cash. Money was always tight for my family, and my dad loved his music. My favorite song that he sang at the VFW was Long, Tall Texan. I had the enjoyment of listening to my dad play recently with a few other older gentlemen. Daddy, as always, played the drums, and there was a steel guitar, a 6 string bass and a lead guitar. I am looking forward to an invitation to his next gig with the younger band he sometimes sits in with. There I’ll get to hear some of my Lynrd Skynrd and Eric Clapton favorites.
The very best memories I have of my childhood involve my dad singing to me. Just a few of the songs were the afore mentioned Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay as well as Me and Bobby McGee, Help Me Make it Through the Night and Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain that were sung as lullabies to help me go to sleep. When we walked to milk the cow, plant the garden or spray the plum tree, Daddy sang Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. George Jones was a favorite as well. He Stopped Loving Her Today was one of my favorite supper-cooking serenades. Daddy always sang around the house, I sing while working, and my sweet daughter Syd sings whenever she pleases. It is a good family heritage. There is a song for every situation, a song for every feeling, a song for every day.
I never knew the actual meanings or topics of these songs until I was an adult. To my young ears, they were sweet melodies and my Daddy’s voice talking about hair ribbons, blue eyes, harmonicas and flip-flops, all things to which I could relate. These songs hold a special meaning to me. Now that I have become an adult and experienced love and heartache, they mean even more. I can’t hear Margaritaville without remembering walking to milk the cow with my dad when his flip flop “blew” and we had to head back home for a new pair. The relief that he did not cut his heel still infuses my mind. I am still looking for my Bobby McGee to make feeling good easy.
1974 was a really good year for music. Many of my favorites were born the same year I was. The most requested songs in 1974 include a lot of my favorites. Who doesn’t like Carl Douglas’ Kung Fu Fighting? That song is a cult classic. My son of 15 years who wasn’t born until 1993 even likes that song. I cannot help but smile when I listen to Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynrd tops the list of most requested songs in 1974. This song played a vital part in my senior trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama at the age of 17. Going to the Flora-Bama bar and staying past dark to hang out with the 21-year-olds, dancing on the tables to Sweet Home Alabama was about as wild as this little country girl got in high school. For the record, I am repulsed by Kid Rock’s latest song which rips off Skynrd’s classic hit. Please be original enough to create your own cult classic. Do not leech off the creativity of Skynyrd.
I consider myself to be a light-hearted, joyful person. Is it superstition to feel that the songs being listened to the year I was born helped in any way to make me who I am? Barry White singing Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe and Rufus with the timeless Tell Me Something Good had to be a blessed omen over me. These are two of the many songs I reach for to turn a bad day around. There is nothing like a little funk to get one out of a funk, and no woman can resist the soothing voice of Mr. White.
If you fast forward to my pre-teen years, there is not a lot of material to use to describe my life. My mother became very religious at that time, and my dad had to pack up the Eagles, Queen, Rod Stewart and the sound track to Saturday Night Fever. We were not allowed to listen to any secular music for several years. Later in my life, I found out Daddy just took the albums to work with him and stored them in his desk drawer. I still remember sorting through the album case at home to look at the double album Saturday Night Fever and ogle the photos of John Travolta in his white suite. I’m not sure what the title of the Rod Stewart album was, but he was wearing hot pink lycra on the cover. I now have Saturday Night Fever soundtrack as well as the Best of Queen on CD. Rod Stewart’s cover of Have I Told You Lately played a big role in my first wedding. Unfortunately, the best crooned love songs cannot save a marriage that is destined to die.
My college years were spent catching up to music I had lost in my pre-teens and teen years. I found a love for Eric Clapton with Layla which I thought could just have easily have been titled Lana, the nickname my family gave me. When I hear that song today, I can perfectly envision my dorm room in Woolfolk Hall. Always longing for affection and assurance of my worth, I was positive that Clapton sang Wonderful Tonight just to me. In fact, he sings every song on the Complete Clapton CD set just to me these days. There is one thing you need to know about me, “I have a rock and roll heart,” and I am wonderful…today and tonight. Have I gotten to the place where I can believe that? If not, I’ll keep listening to Eric croon until I believe it whole-heartedly.
While at Delta State University, surprising even myself, I gained affection for the Red Hot Chili Peppers that still holds to this very day. A greatest hits purchase is on my list of things to do soon. For now, I relish every time Jack FM 94.7 plays Under the Bridge, Give it Away or Love Roller Coaster. These are the words that come to mind when I think of my year at Delta State, 1992-1993 – Lollapalooza regret. I wish I had been there. My year at Delta State was freedom and success. It was happiness at entering the world of independence.
Let’s fast forward again to 2000 when after the end of a five year marriage and four years of searching for heightened spirituality, I was introduced secular music once again. Most of my life’s musical search has been trying to catch up with what I missed. I began acquiring Blues music, especially any musicians who had lived in or come from Mississippi. During my times of being single and lonely, I found comfort in B.B. King’s Hummingbird and To Know You is to Love You. B.B. and I shared several candle lit bubble baths and glasses of wine from 2000 and 2001. The thrill was gone, and I was holding onto hope that it could possibly come back.
In February of 2002, my thrill came back in the persona of a radio DJ. He played the Blues in his car on our first date and his knowledge of music was almost as impressive as his CD collection. I was smitten from day one. In our first year of dating, we frequented local Blues clubs, met Howlin’ Wolf’s lead guitarist, Hubert Summerlin and made friends in the local Blues society. Jackie Bell from the 930 Blues Café never hesitated to sing Breakin’ Up for me when I requested it. I had found my second love, but for some reason that song struck a chord with my memories of the four lonely years alone. It is a song about a woman in love with a married man, but it epitomized the deep pain of being very much alone. I still enjoy listening to Ann Peeble’s version of the song, even though the painful loneliness is no longer there. To empathize with the loneliness of another heals the hurt of one’s own loneliness. Is that not the purpose of the Blues, to help heal the hurt of life?
My DJ introduced me to Nikka Costa’s funky beat, and together we discovered Maroon Five, listening to them over and over before they became a hit on the airwaves. When I listen to Nikka Costa today, I think of those days when my eyes were still blinded by love, when my DJ and I rode around listening to our favorites blissfully knowing no other person walked the earth but the two of us. He was the something that made me smile “like an itty, bitty child.” I listened to Nikka over and over during the two months awaiting my divorce finalization. I found that she really knew my DJ when she sang Push & Pull, “Mr. Nothing’s got a lot, He’s got a lot to say. He’s good at being what he’s not, Gives nothing away.” Nikka had a new song out last year, I believe, that may better suit my life and loves, Till I Get to You: “My lover A was absolutely alright. But my lover B would bump my tunes in his ride….” I have 24 more letters to get it right. I think that is a country song in the making.
Today, only three months post separation, the divorce is final, and I find that the ever present break-up song suits my mood. New artist, Chris Daughtry, says it best, “Cause I’m not taking the easy way out, Not wrappin’ this in ribbons, Shouldn’t have to give a reason why. It’s no surprise I won’t be here tomorrow. I can’t believe that I stayed till today. Yeah, you and I will be a tough act to follow, but I know in time we’ll find this was no surprise.” I haven’t taken the easy way out. For some it is easy to stay until there is hate rather than to move on before someone gets hurt. This is what this song says to me today. Will it say the same thing tomorrow? I may not be a rock star, but he is a tool, and like Pink “I’m alright, I’m just fine.”
Today, I listen to these songs that have been a part of my life since before I was born and I marvel at how the meanings change. With each new life experience the songs become richer, more meaningful, full of life and infused with good feelings. For me, even sad songs can bring good feelings. They bring a realization that either I’m no longer in the difficult situation or that someone has been there before me. They make me realize that even life’s hardships must eventually end. There are days when sad songs make me happy. What once was a lullaby now becomes the realization that we, as humans, sometimes need someone to help us make it through the night.
Before I was born, my dad made his memories with music and passed them to me from the day I was born. His joy became my joy, and I thank him for the introduction. The tradition continues. Only moments after my daughter was born, Daddy – Papaw – held her in his arms and gave her the first taste of sweet heartbreak being sung softly and sweetly. His joy became my joy that is being passed on to my children. I thank him for the introduction.