“Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die.” — Paul Simon

“Music is the soundtrack of your life.” — Dick Clark

For my 70th birthday my kids gave me a set of Sony noise-cancelling headphones. Over the last few years I had been listening to more sports talk and sports broadcasts instead of music. My large iTunes music library sat idle.

The new headphones allowed me to rediscover how much music has been a part of my life. I have over 5,200 iTunes that I have collected over the years. They reflect the soundtrack of my life.

The sweet headphones have motivated me to access my music library and create new playlists.

We all have songs that bring back a memory or two. A song might conjure memories of childhood. I remember ironing shirts at our laundry listening to the Rolling Stones song “Satisfaction.” At that point in my youth I didn’t quite understand the lyrics but the tune was really catchy.

On Saturday afternoons my parents would tune into the Cantonese radio station and listen to a broadcast of Chinese opera.

Before that I remember the impact that Beatlemania had on the girls at Redding Elementary! They all wanted to marry Paul or John. Paula Crow, who sat in front of me in 6th grade, wore a Beatles T-shirt with all the buttons and talked endlessly of her love for Paul.

I still remember seeing their first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” It was the beginning of the British invasion. The Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits and others would follow.

I would pass on my love of the Beatles to my son Colin, who has a collection of all the Beatles’ CDs.

Later I would discover the folks songs of the Kingston Trio, Glenn Yarbrough, Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel, Jim Croce, Carole King, and James Taylor, to name a few artists.

I also can’t forget The Beach Boys! California classics. After all, didn’t  “we wish they all could be California girls!”

I am sure some of our readers have a favorite song that evokes a memory both sweet and bittersweet. How many of you remember the song played at the first dance at your wedding? Ours was “Could I Have This Dance?”

What about that slow dance you had with your first boyfriend or girlfriend at a junior high dance or high school prom? In college my favorite slow dance was “Always and Forever” by Heat Wave.

Our parents also had a soundtrack! I remember my father-in-law Lew had a collection of CDs. His favorites: Glenn Miller, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Ella Fitzgerald, to name a few.

He loved playing his tunes while sitting in his favorite chair.

My mom loved “The Lawrence Welk Show,” which she tuned in religiously every Saturday.

Of course, we also loved Elvis and Motown. This too was a part of our soundtrack. Who can’t love the words “I got sunshine on a cloudy day” or “Are you lonesome tonight?”

I was also a big fan of Stevie Wonder and The Stylistics.

And… what about the disco era? How many guys had the white suits from “Saturday Night Fever”? We all danced to the tunes of the era, we still “get down” to “The Hustle” by Van McCoy and “YMCA” by the Village People at weddings.

The most impactful song that is part of the soundtrack of my life is Scott McKenzie’s 1967 hit “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).” My memory of this song has nothing to do with the Summer of Love.

1967 was the year my father died. In Chinese tradition you are not to watch TV or listen to the radio for three months as part of the grieving process. Well, my younger brother accidently turned on the radio and that was the tune that came on. My mother came into our room yelling at us. She then broke down in tears. That memory is what I associate with that song.

A final question, though morbid to my readers: What songs would you play at your memorial? Mine would be “Amazing Grace,”“Take It Easy” and “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.”

In the soundtrack of your life, what are some of your favorites that evoke both sweet and bittersweet memories?

Finally, a question shared by my wife Lisa’s cousin Dale Gorman: Do you remember your first concert?


Bill Yee is a retired Alhambra High School history teacher. He can be reached at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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