Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Soundtrack of My Life

I grew up in a musical family, always surrounded by every kind of music imaginable: classical, folk, Broadway, movie soundtracks, children's songs, and hymns. My dad listened to the Limelighters and the Kingston Trio, my mom listened to Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky, and they both listened to Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Loewe. And the whole family sang in the car: Found a Peanut, Amazing Grace, The Beer Barrel Polka, The Oscar Meyer Weiner Song. So it's not surprising that I usually have some song or another running through my head, and often coming out of my mouth as well.

It would be an interesting study to try to analyze what triggers a particular song for me. Sometimes it's obvious, especially with theater songs - a word or phrase in conversation echoes some lyric and I break into that tune. For example, if Herb says, "The trouble with the world today is that politicians don't listen to each other," I would naturally break into a chorus of, "The trouble with the world today is plain to see: it's coffee in a cardboard cup!" Or, to use a more well-known example, if he said, "The weatherman said the sun is supposed to come out tomorrow," I'd break into a chorus of - well, you all know what chorus I'd break into.  
Sometimes it's obvious if you know what I was listening to earlier in the day. Bits of commercial jingles from a few hours ago often slip into my thoughts, or a song I heard on the radio. So when we see the guy up the street walking his Newfie and Herb remarks, "That dog is just GIANT!", I might break into "One eight hundred fifty-four giant, done right, done fast!", or if he asks if I know a certain phone number, I sing, "Eight six seven five three oh ni-ee-eye-ine!" Even a bit of news can put a song in my head - after hearing of the death of actor Robert Culp yesterday, I found myself singing, "Believe it or not, I'm walkin' on air, I never thought I could feel so free. Flyin' away on a wing and a prayer - who could it be? Believe it or not, it's just me!" (That's the theme from "The Greatest American Hero", for those of you who missed the 1980s.) But sometimes, I just don't have the faintest idea where the music comes from.

Yesterday, when Ryan was so fussy, I was rocking him and singing every song that came into my head, trying to calm him. His favorites seem to be Papa's Gonna Buy You a Mockingbird, I'm a Little Teapot (although it must be sung in 3/4 time - and no, I have no idea why or how I even discovered that), and There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly (mostly for the "wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her" part, complete with wriggling, jiggling, and tickling). But when I've gone through those to no avail, I simply start singing whatever comes into my head. Yesterday, those three standbys were followed by The Itsy Bitsy Spider, There Were Three Little Ducks, and Old MacDonald (when I got to a verse about llamas, I knew it was time to move on - but believe me, Old MacDonald had QUITE the interesting farm yesterday!), all to no avail. But then, for no reason I can possibly fathom, I began humming the theme song to Mission: Impossible. Dum! Dum! Dah-dum! Dum! Dum! Dah-dum! Doo-doo daaaaahhhh, doo-doo daaaaahhh, doo-doo daaaaaahhhh, doo-doo! And it worked like a charm.
And come to think of it, considering how fussy Ryan had been all day long, that particular theme song was exceptionally appropriate. Jim Phelps might even have had to think twice about taking on a mission like that.

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