All Songs Considered
12:37 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

Question Of The Week, Valentine's Day Edition: What's 'Your Song'?

Originally published on Mon February 10, 2014 2:59 pm

I come from a long line of sentimental types. When my grandmother passed away a number of years ago, she left behind an entire house filled with boxes of mementos, trinkets and souvenirs, each with a story of love, sorrow or joy attached to it. I've got my own collection of such stuff building slowly in a storage shed — big plastic crates of things I can't let go of because they seem to contain a sacred part of my past.

But of all the things we find evocative — a handwritten letter, a cork from a particular bottle of wine or an old photo — few if any resonate with the past quite like a song.

My grandmother and grandfather separated when I was in elementary school, but I still remember "their" song. It was Frank Sinatra singing "Oh! What It Seemed To Be."

If I ever have occasion to hear it, both grandparents are, in that moment, still with me.

My parents celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, and their song has the same effect. It's The Brothers Four singing "Green Leaves Of Summer."

I'm not sure how these songs became such an inextricable part of my family's past, but in my own relationships, songs have never been chosen. It's more like they found or find us. I was with someone for a number of years and in our earliest days together we seemed to hear Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune" everywhere we went. So by default, it became our song. My wife and I never made it official, but Peter Bjorn & John's "Young Folks" was popular when we started dating and embodied everything we were feeling at the time, especially the lines "I can tell there's something goin' on, hours seems to disappear / Everyone is leaving, I'm still with you."

So "Young Folks" inevitably burrowed its way into our lives and became our song, again, almost by default. I'm not sure why, but we seem to be the most receptive to adopting such official songs in periods of transition — the earliest days of falling in love, a marriage, or even some form of loss, from a lifelong friend moving far away, to someone's death. True story: When my uncle died, "Yakety Sax" was played at his funeral. Now I can't hear "Yakety Sax" without thinking of him. Yes, he had a healthy sense of humor.

Since Valentine's day is right around the corner and so many of you out there will be thinking about making new connections or reaffirming old ones, let's take a moment to think about the songs that bring us together. Regardless of the occasion, we'd love to know what "your" song is. This can be anything from a tune you share with someone else, to any song that always seems to take you to a specific place or time or feeling. Tell us about it in the comments.

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