soundtrack for a day worth remembering

Soundtrack in my head: Nick Drake, “Hazey Jane II”

I named this website “The Different Drummer Soundtrack” because I often think of life being set to music and expressed in song. A life sung and not whispered takes on a certain beauty and power it might not have otherwise taken. Certain pieces of music have a way of attaching themselves to memories so that hearing the music again triggers the memory.

Sometimes I deliberately pick a piece of music to mark an occasion the way I want to remember it. For example, when I moved into the Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown in 1995, the first CD I put on was Liz Phair’s “Exile In Guyville” because the lo-fi punk rock represented my image of a then-scruffy, artsy neighborhood. Ironically, I would later find out that the landlord had misled us into thinking that we were living in Bucktown–we were actually three blocks west of the unofficial border of the neighborhood, and were really in the much rougher, but in many ways more interesting neighborhood of Humboldt Park. So much for marking the moment.

But sometimes life arranges itself so that the music playing almost exactly fits the occasion. Such was the case when I settled into my new room for the first time in my new co-op house in Madison. It was the day after Christmas in 2002 when I took six boxes up to Madison. At that point, I still had my job in Chicago and a room in a friends’ condo in the far western suburbs of the city, and that would last until January 26, 2003–it was exactly three years ago today that I pulled up the remainder of my Illinois stakes and settled in Wisconsin.

Going back to that day after Christmas in 2002, I’d finished unpacking and decided to rest for a bit. I pulled out a CD that I’d just gotten for Christmas the day before–it was the album “Bryter Later” by the late English folk artist Nick Drake. I’d heard good things about the album, but never had heard it before. To my surprise, the CD–particularly the first two tracks, seemed especially relevant.

The first track, “Intro,” is a beautiful 90-second guitar instrumental backed with a string section, and to me it symbolizes leaving the city behind and discovering a beautiful, lush, green valley that opens up ahead of you–sort of like the beautiful hills north of Janesville that I described in a previous post.

The second track, “Hazey Jane II” really captured my feelings about leaving an old life behind and starting a new one–lyrics that would become even more relevant on January 26th when I would finally make a clean break with the past and start life anew in my newly adopted city and state. Some of the lyrics are below:

“And what will happen in the morning when the world it gets so crowded that you can’t look out the window in the morning

And what will happen in the evening in the forest with the weasel with the teeth that bite so sharp when you’re not looking in the evening

And all the friends that you once knew are left behind they kept you safe and so secure amongst the books and all the records of your lifetime

What will happen, In the morning, When the world it gets so crowded that you can’t look out the window in the morning

Hey, take a little while to grow your brother’s hair/And now, take a little while to make your sister fair/and now that the family/is part of a chain/Take off your eyeshade/Start over again.

Now take a little while to find your way in here/Now take a little while to make your story clear/Now that you’re lifting/Your feet from the ground/Weigh up your anchor/And never look round.

A housemate once commented that I have this uncanny ability to remember dates and mark anniversaries. I can’t say that I remember all of them–I don’t know, for example, what day of August I first left my hometown of Oak Park for a new life in college in Champaign, IL. But this move to Madison was something I’d wanted for a long time, and it was also a major departure from everything I’d been doing before–lifestyle-wise, career-wise, etc. And I think it’s good to mark days like these because it helps me to remember why I came up here, the direction and lifestyle I chose, the mission I took on, and it’s good to remind oneself of that. And if Nick Drake’s beautiful guitar picking and melodies have slipped quite nicely into that little piece of personal history, all the better because it fit perfectly into that moment, and–even better–was completely unplanned.

So here’s to memories, and the enjoyment of one’s favorite soundtrack…


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