Tag Archives: Family

Both Sides Now

Every once in a while, I offer a song from my past–a long distance request and dedication to my family.

I first heard this song on a music box my mother gave me. She gave my two sisters and me a music box for every birthday growing up. What interested me more than the figures on top (like unicorns or little girls with umbrellas) was the music itself. I would open up the box and watch the small spindles going around as the music played. I would pluck them and hold them close to my ear to absorb the sounds. The boxes were my music even before radio. One of them played “Fly Me to The Moon” very slowly, so I thought that it was a heartbreaking song until I heard Sinatra sing it up tempo.

The song I loved most was Both Sides Now, although I didn’t know the title at the time. The composer would become one of my favorite singers and songwriters. Mitchell’s lyricism and music is one of a kind. This song brings me back to Illinois, to our first home where I would sit on my bed with this music box on my lap. Now that I am old enough to understand the lyrics, it holds a new meaning. I have grown into it.

What song will always remind you of home?

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Long Way From Home

My father owned some records I latched onto when I was young. The albums included Sam Cooke, The Beatles, Patsy Cline, and Peter, Paul, and Mary. These musicians were my musical heritage from both my parents and grandparents along with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; Jim Croce; Connie Francis; The Ink Spots; and The Platters. I listen to them even now. This song was my first favorite of my own generation.

I was a real quiet kid–I kept to myself with books and music. I sat with the school secretary in junior high when everyone went out to recess. Music was my refuge. As Freddie Mercury sang, “Everything/I had to know/I learned it on the radio.”

The Peter, Paul, and Mary album was particularly meaningful to me during this time as it was furtive and melancholy, matching my timidity. The music was also charged with political and emotional currents that I didn’t yet understand. My favorite song was “Early Morning Rain,” a song written by Gordon Lightfoot.

This song is heavy, wry, and about a traveler’s life away from loved ones. Raw with weariness. I’m always captured by the line, “Now I’m stuck here on the grass, where the pavement never grows.” This song is my “long distance request and dedication” for everyone miles away from those they love. Or for those whose lifeline to the world was the radio.

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