The mixed CD that’s a compilation of music by “divas” begins with a tune by Billie Holiday. I am in the car with my mother and we’re driving to my sister’s house on a back road.
She brightens at the idea that we’ve got this female vocalist vibe going. We chat a little, but then she realizes the tune playing is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and she stops.
“Is it Judy?” Mom asks over the noise of the wind coming in the windows on this gorgeous day.
And then Judy Garland belts out the next line and Mom smiles. Judy’s distinct sound answers the question for her. Mom puts both hands out to the side, indicating she’s getting ready to starting singing with her. At one point she says, “Take it, Judy” and just enjoys listening again.
The songs that follow treat us to the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, and Whitney Houston. I take over the singing when Ross goes to town on “Touch Me in the Morning.” It’s too good not to go there with her.
Music and my parents. What a gift.
Sure, I love to be alone in the car and sing, be it classic rock, easy listening or pop. But lately I’ve been seeing myself in my parents when it comes to this particular passion.
Just a week before this ride with my mother, I was in the car with my brother and father going to a big band concert. My brother was driving and our backdrop was a combination of Sinatra and big band tunes en route. My father lives for music, probably should have been a disc jockey. He relaxed into the ride and got a kick out of our banter around the songs and artists.
At the concert, featuring Bobby Caldwell’s Big Band, Dad was moving in his seat the whole time. Feet keeping time. Hands almost leading the band. Lyrics coming off his lips without even a thought. I don’t know how so many people can keep still when a 17-piece orchestra is coming at them, but I grew up with parents who feel their music. They met at a dance and were the first ones up on the dance floor at weddings.
It’s such a part of me.
We all have those songs that are the soundtrack for our lives, as they say. And while my high school and college years were mostly about rock and disco, my childhood home was infused with all kinds of music – Sinatra, doo wop, big bands, opera, country. It all made its way in and now so much of it jars memories.
At this point in our lives, it’s amazing what comes flooding back and the new memories created when we include music.
As Mom and I get on the interstate, Sara Vaughan is singing Broken Hearted Melody.
“I used to be able to hit those notes,” Mom says.
I turn up the volume and encourage her to give it a go. Let the wind take it where it will.
By Nancy Colasurdo