Today is the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. It also reminds me of something I was reminded of yesterday: the simple notion that a song can latch on to a memory and change that song forever.
John Lennon’s “God” is one of those songs for me, and a song that had a deep impact on me as a teenager.
Most of the deaths I’d experienced up until that point were older individuals, aside from the daughter of family friend, which haunted me.
Then, in high school, on the anniversary of John Lennon’s death, my friend’s mother passed. I have to say I am no longer in touch with this girl, but this song has forever memorialized what happened. I had gone home, trying to process everything, and sat on my floor next to the radio. We didn’t have cable, so I spent much of my time writing and listening to music. “God” came on the radio, and hit me pretty hard at that moment. It bore such immense sadness, and yet it exclaimed some of the thoughts I was having through its lyrics. I don’t consider myself religious, and the line “God is a concept by which we measure our pain” seemed to ring true for me.
I was in a music therapy course in college, and one of our assignments was to create a list of songs like this, songs that are permanently fixed to a specific memory. This was to exercise how music and memory works, and why music was being used as a therapy tool for patients experiencing memory failure. Strangely enough, many of the songs and stories my peers presented are now cemented in my memory, too. One classmate presented “”Don’t Look Back In Anger”, and how her friend had left the lyrics of this song as a suicide note. I now find myself experiencing grief when I hear this song, because I remember how sad she was when explaining her song choice. Of course it cannot compare to her grief, but it is a powerful thing. It also helps us to understand others and their experiences.
I won’t share my entire list here, but would love to hear about some of your memory songs. Being someone who has such a strong interest in music and memory, I find it fascinating. It’s also nice, in some ways, that a song can be such a placeholder for people and memories in your life.
So, no, the dream is not over. Songs are like little bubbles of memories that are always floating out there in waves.