I went to the Apple store last week for a lesson in “getting to know my iPhone.” I have had this device for a few years but, like my son, it is still very much a mystery to me. No doubt I love it and it occupies so much of my waking thought. But I am frequently surprised by its erratic and obstinate behavior. I know that I am supposed to be the “boss” of this thing but, really, it usually feels like it is in charge of me.
And as with my child, yelling at it doesn’t work.
I went to the store and had my lesson. I don’t know how much I learned but I did feel schooled afterwards. For one, during the session the 20-something-year-old Apple store employee, reassured me with a tender look and a most definitely straight face, “Technology can be confusing. It’s like a whole new language.” As if I, too, were 83 years old like the lady next to me. And the lady across from me. And pretty much everybody there at the table who was not wearing a blue Apple Genius shirt with coordinating eyebrow ring. Maybe she had a point.
More importantly, I also discovered that the music I have downloaded onto my iPhone is an incoherent hodgepodge of songs. There is some excellent music to be sure, including some selections recommended by blogger friend and music fanatic Orange. I also have a few hours of the “50 Essential Pieces” of Classical music and a series of “Opera’s Greatest Hits.” True, the fact that I downloaded these compilations in the first place does demonstrate how much of a Just Give Me the Cliff’s Notes kind of person I can be about haute culture. And the fact that I accidentally downloaded the Opera songs twice without understanding how to delete them gives a clear picture as to why I am often mistaken for an octogenarian at the Apple store. Nevertheless, this cluster of great music that I did not properly appreciate or understand (oh but I will someday!) did not give a clear picture of who I am.
So, as suggested by the Daily Post Prompt, I have compiled a playlist to help my iPhone understand really what I am all about. (Note to those who are as technologically challenged as I, you can click on the song titles below to hear them on YouTube.)
Playlist: Getting to know MotherJam
- Country Roads by John Denver
- From a Wigwam from Teaching Little Fingers to Play by John Thompson
- The Entire Help! Album by the Beatles
- September by Earth Wind and Fire
- Brick House by the Commodores
- Use Me by Bill Withers
- Think by Aretha Franklin
- The Entire Songs in the Key of Life Album by Stevie Wonder
- It’s not Easy Bein’ Green by Kermit the Frog
- Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight and the Pips
- Dio che nell’alma infondere from the Opera Don Carlo by Giuseppe Verdi
Song 1: I am originally from Colorado, and accordingly, will always have a place in my heart for John Denver. Given that Country Roads is not about Colorado at all, one would think that I would have substituted Rocky Mountain High here. But, Country Roads was one of the first songs I remember being able to sing. Its theme of longing for home while living indefinitely in a place you don’t belong has always struck a chord with me. Thinking about how at age 4 I would sing this to myself on the the swing, I realize that there was no way I could ever stay in Colorado, I love to love it too much.
Song 2: From a Wigwam. This is the final, and most difficult, song from John Thompson’s “Teaching Little Fingers To Play,” a beginning piano book I worked through with my father when I was 5 years old or so. (Unfortunately, this post is already getting a little too long for me to get into the unfortunateness of the titles involved here. They were born of an era that did not properly acknowledge the scourge of racism, or sexism, or how certain members of the Catholic church were very much involved in a different kind of finger games.)
From a Wigwam is a very satisfying piece of music to play and I remember feeling very accomplished as I banged this song out. I don’t have any recordings of myself playing, but if you click here you will see that Skye Malone does an interpretation that resembles how I would have played it. (But as my mother will surely point out in the comments, I would NOT have been wearing a dress.)
Selections 2-8: I think these basically speak for themselves. In short, I love the Beatles and Stevie Wonder. I love to dance and watch people who sing while wearing sparkly outfits. I am not too careful in relationships but I can basically take care of myself. And In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I am not cool but I do aspire to have soul.
Selection 9: I love most things relating to the Muppets but this here is a work of art. Its painful awkwardness is part of its brilliance. It should be my theme song. Click here to listen.
Selection 10: For those of us who still have trouble accepting Kermit’s message, and have yearned “to stand out like flashy sparkles in the water” anyway, that’s where Midnight Train to Georgia comes in. I am afraid I might out myself as a musical nincompoop here (please note, my musical education never went much farther than the From Wigwam as referenced above) so I am wary of offering my analysis. But to hear this song about coping with failed dreams, standing by your partner, and just moving on— with the understanding that the person singing the song actually did manage to make her dreams come true (and is still touring and releasing music!)—-well it makes me cry, and laugh, and basically go crazy with hope for what is possible. Click here to see what I mean.
Selection 11: That duet from Don Carlo. I know it has a real name but I don’t speak italian. When I heard it the first time I had no idea what I was listening to. I was on a treadmill, plodding along during the 8th month of what I was hoping was going to be a “fit” pregnancy and listening to a borrowed MP3 player. I was not exactly primed to encounter high art.
Then this duet, which I understood to be one of those “opera songs,” came on, and man, it just hit me. It felt like the most amazing song I had ever heard. (You know, how so many people felt about Blurred Lines, before they ever saw it performed live? or listened to it more than twice?)
There on the treadmill I listened to this opera duet, the first piece of “Great” music that ever hit my like a rock song. Over and over. And it inspired a mini-obsession: What the hell were they singing about? Usually, as a mostly non-musical person, I am satisfied by a catchy melody and a good beat. For me, whether or not something is a good song has a lot to do with the lyrics. (Sophisticated musicians and music lovers are horrified by this. Hopefully they will still speak to me after I admit this and after I referenced Robin Thicke and Guiseppe Verdi in the same paragraph.)
As with many of my foibles, I blithely expose this one, because I know there are a lot of us out there who share it and who wish we could develop a more sophisticated understanding of music. Furthermore, I am confident that I am not the only one who was inspired to make opera a “part of my soul” because Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman said it was impossible.
So I was happy when I felt this deep connection to this duet. When I learned the context, that the song was about two men pledging eternal friendship upon learning that one of the men must flee his country because he was in love with his stepmother—I realized that when it comes to music, words aren’t everything.
Click here to listen.
Selections missing from the list:
I loved composing this post and I was astounded by the richness out there that I have only begun to encounter. I look forward to hearing what other people would list as the songs that really capture who they are. I am inspired truly.
Still there were a few songs that I would have liked to have included but was unable to do so, seeing as they have yet to be written. Now, inspired as I am, I might just have to write them myself.
So get your iPhones ready. It is only a matter of time before you will be able to download the true MotherJam classics:
- Brush your teeth before I kill you.
- I like the way you vacuum.
- When I think about you [loading the dishwasher] I touch myself.
Thanks for reading, and please, let me know what “your” songs are in the comments.