• Joanne Mason

Writing Prompts: Music!

For the last 10 years, my brother has broadcast a weekly radio show over the internet. I listen every week, not just because I'm a devoted sister, but because so much of the music, largely from the '70s and '80s, brings back so many memories - and stories.

In the chat section of the station website, I find myself telling the stories: How my Dad loved Jim Croce's "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown." How my Mom used to sing the refrain of "Him" by Rupert Holmes with gusto. ("Him! Him! Him!" along with the radio, no matter where we were.)

So in music, there's power for stories.

Before the pandemic, I tried incorporating music into a writing workshop I gave for our local genealogical society. We didn't get to these prompts, so I share them here with my own impressions. What memories do they spark for you?

"Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" - The Andrew Sisters (1942)

  • My mother often told me about celebrating the end of World War II with her parents and siblings in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. When I pass through the area, I imagine crowds of people dancing in the streets of Court Square, just as she described.

  • Alice, a woman in my mother's dementia unit at her nursing home, came across as a lady you wouldn't trifle with. But when this song came on, she would sing and dance in her seat with giddy joy.

  • One of my best college friends was in a theatrical revue of World War II era songs, a few months after my mother died. It was an emotional show for me, as so much of it reminded me of my Mom and her stories of her childhood.

"At The Hop" - Danny and the Juniors (1958)

  • This song represents my father's favorite style of music, and I can picture him and his friends roller skating to early rock & roll. Small wonder his favorite TV show was "Happy Days."

  • Decades later, a 12-year-old showed me YouTube clips of some of his favorite songs, none of which I recognized until he clicked here and said, "Well...um...this is the only old song I really like."

"I Want to Hold Your Hand" - The Beatles (1964)

  • It seems like everyone of a certain age can tell us what they were doing the night of February 9, 1964 as the Beatles made their Ed Sullivan debut. The event was before my time, and my parents didn't even watch the show! But 15 years later, when two friends and I discovered the Beatles as middle-schoolers, Beatlemania went into full swing at our house.

Do these songs bring out any stories for you? Or can you think of other songs with clear memories attached? Let us know in the comments!

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