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Archive for April, 2015

Introduction

“The music of our youth becomes the soundtrack of our lives.”
—Jimmy Peacock

“In a film, the music tells us how to feel
about what we are seeing.”

—Anonymous Film Critic

In my previous post titled “Infusion Inspiration: Memory Flood at the Center for Blood” I described how listening to old cassette tapes of Gospel music on an outdated portable Walkman cassette player helps me to pass the time while I receive blood at a city hospital blood center.

I used quotes, scriptures, Gospel song lyrics, and links to Gospel music videos to illustrate the inspiration and encouragement from the stirred memories I receive during those long tedious hours of sitting in a recliner in a cold room hooked up to an IV tube.

In this post, a sort of sequel to that one, I continue the subject of how songs of all types, and not just Gospel hymns, have the power to serve as “musical ‘memory-triggers’ and ‘time-travel transporters.’”

As I noted in that post and in the opening quotes above, over time the music we listened to in our youth and young adulthood often becomes the “soundtrack of our lives”—especially as we grow older and begin to look backward to the simpler, happier days of our existence.

Often, these memory “flashbacks” are triggered by music, particularly by a certain song—and sometimes it is the reverse, a certain memory of a past event will trigger the music being played at the time that event took place.

It happens to all of us, I suppose, but especially to us “seniors.” That’s why we often think on such occasions, “Ah, those were the days!”

Now in this post I will recall and review some of the songs that became at least a part of the soundtrack of my childhood. Since there are so many I can only present some examples that come to my mind when I recall that period of my life or some incident in it. Due to their number I will not try to provide the lyrics or the video links to all these songs. However, you can always find them by searching for any that interest you by Googling them online.

Childhood Soundtracks

“And precious things are [musical memories] to an exile,
They take him to a [time and] place he cannot be.
—My paraphrase of the Irish folksong
“The Isle of Innisfree”

“When a man says that he is seeking the scenes of his childhood,
what he is really seeking is his childhood.”
—Anonymous

If you have read my preceding post “Infusion Inspiration: Memory Flood at the Center for Blood,” you will recognize this first partial and paraphrased quote from the Irish folk song “The Isle of Innisfree.”

As I noted in that post and in this one, certain songs from our childhood and youth have the power to “take us [back] to a time and place we cannot be.” I described this phenomenon in my previous post when I wrote about the power of the old hymns of the faith that we sang in the Selma Baptist Church of my childhood.

But that experience is not limited to old hymns and Gospel songs though I am reminded that every day as my country, cattle-dealing family sat down to “dinner” (Southern for “lunch”), we always listened to two radio shows: 1) the news of livestock and commodity prices on the market and 2) a fifteen-minute program of Southern Gospel music by the Stamps-Baxter Quartet. I can even still sing their theme song, “Give the World a Smile,” almost seventy years later though I have never seen the lyrics in print nor have I heard the music in decades. (To hear this song sung by J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet, the group who backed up Elvis Presley on many of his songs, click on the title.)

J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet with Elvis Presley

J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet with Elvis Presley (center) whom they backed up

From my idyllic, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn childhood in my birthplace of Selma, Arkansas (which I wrote about in my earlier post titled “The Way We Were”), there are several old secular songs that still recall to my memory those simpler, happier days in my life.

For example, the first song I ever remember singing, at about age four while strolling through the house strumming a cheap plastic toy guitar, was one I heard on our old battery radio (which I wrote about in that earlier post about “The Way We Were”). It was titled “You Are My Sunshine” and was written in 1939 (one year after my birth) by Jimmie Davis, later governor of Louisiana. In fact, it was sung and declared “written by another Southern governor” in the film Primary Colors based on the presidential primary candidacy of Bill Clinton, former governor of my native state of Arkansas. (To hear this song sung by Jimmie Davis, click on the title.)

Jimmie Davis and his record of "You Are My Sunshine"

Jimmie Davis and his record of “You Are My Sunshine,” the first song I ever remember singing

Speaking of “musical memory-triggers” and “time-travel transporters,” you can imagine the sensation I experience every time I hear that old song from my earliest childhood being sung or played some seventy years later. It quite literally “strums the strings of my heart” just as I strummed the strings of that plastic toy guitar in that simple farmhouse in which I was born long ago and far away.

Of course, during my childhood there were other “soundtrack” songs that still speak to me and recall those happier days. For example, in that earlier post about “The Way We Were” I told about getting electricity for the first time in 1947. I also told how we took our habitual trip into town (McGehee, about fifteen miles from Selma) on “Sairdy evenin’” to go to the “pitcher show” and watch a double feature which always included a grade B-Western with 1940’s cowboy stars.

Malco Theater in McGehee, Arkansas, at its gala opening in about 1954

Malco Theater in McGehee, Arkansas, at its gala opening in about 1954 when it replaced the older Ritz Theater where I saw many 1940’s films (to magnify, click on the photo)

Some of those movie cowboys were known for their music, especially Gene Autry, called from the beginning in the 1930s “the Singing Cowboy,” and Roy Rogers, who got his start in Hollywood as part of the Western singing group “The Sons of the Pioneers.” A few of the songs I recall by the Sons of the Pioneers were “Cool Water,” “Tumblin’ Tumbleweed” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” (To view these songs on You Tube, click on their titles.)

The Sons of the Pioneers with Roy Rogers

The Sons of the Pioneers with Roy Rogers (in white hat on the right)

In a later post titled “You Might Be from the Country If . . . Part IV” I offered a quiz on some of these cowboys whose musical themes, like Gene Autry’s “I’m Back in the Saddle Again” and Roy Rogers’ “Happy Trails to You,” also became part of the “soundtrack” of my childhood years as the son of a livestock dealer who loved everything Western.

(To hear these songs on YouTube video, click on their titles. Note: The Gene Autry song takes about ten seconds to begin so wait for it to start. The theme song of Roy Rogers, whose album of greatest hits we own and listen to, includes his wife and costar Dale Evans, a photo of whom with Roy and his horse Trigger, graces the wall of Mari’s bedroom.)

Gene Autry

Gene Autry, known from the 1930s as the “Singing Cowboy”

Roy Rogers and his co-star and wife Dale Evans

Roy Rogers and his co-star and later wife Dale Evans (to magnify, click on the photo)

The War Years of the 1940s

“Listen to the jingle the rumble and the roar
As she glides along the woodland through the hills and by the shore
Hear the mighty rush of the engine hear the lonesome hobos call
You’re traveling through the jungle on the Wabash Cannonball.”
—Lyrics to Roy Acuff version of
“The Wabash Cannonball”

In that post about “The Way We Were” I told how we used to listen to “The Grand Ole Opry” in those carefree childhood days. I mentioned in particular listening to the star of the Grand Ole Opry at that time, Roy Acuff, whose songs like “The Great Speckled Bird” and particularly “The Wabash Cannonball” were great hits and heard everywhere in the country in those day.

Grand Ole Opry star Roy Acuff

Roy Acuff, the Grand Ole Opry star who sang “The Wabash Cannonball”

In fact, Roy and his songs were so popular that during World War II attacking Japanese soldiers used to cry out at their American enemies: “To hell with FDR (U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt)!” and “To hell with Roy Acuff!” (To hear “The Wabash Cannonball” sung by Roy Acuff on YouTube video, click on the title above.)

Since the 1940s of my childhood were the years of World War II (1941-45 for Americans), some of the music in our family “soundtrack” included popular wartime songs such as “The White Cliffs of Dover,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me (Till I Come Marching Home),” and of course the patriotic blockbuster “God Bless America” sung by “The Songbird of the South,” a rousing, robust Virginia singer named Kate Smith.

Popular WWII singer Kate Smith with the cast of her first radio show

Popular WWII singer Kate Smith (center) with the cast of her first radio show

My particular favorites of some later versions of those wartime songs were “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” the signature song of Kate Smith, sung by Mama Cass; “A Nightingale Sang in Barkley Square” (also spelled “Berkeley Square”), written in 1939, the year after I was born, sung by Bobby Darin; and of course Glenn Miller’s Big-Band theme song “In the Mood.” (To hear these three songs, click on their titles.)

Other Swing music favorites included “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Some favorite vocalists of that period included Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, the Andrews Sisters, and Dinah Shore.

Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller, perhaps the most popular Big Band leader of the 1940s

My Parents’ 1940’s Soundtrack

“He rides in the sun
‘Til his day’s work is done
And he rounds up the cattle each fall
(yodeling)
Singing his cattle call.”
—Lyrics of refrain of “Cattle Call” sung by Eddie Arnold

“After the ball is over,
After the break of morn –
After the dancers’ leaving;
After the stars are gone;
Many a heart is aching,
If you could read them all;
Many the hopes that have vanished
After the ball.”

“After the Ball Is Over,
Written in 1890 and sung in the musical
Show Boat in 1936

Although my family and I heard many of the universally popular songs and singers from the Swing and Big Band Music era during and after World War II, as a livestock dealer and his working partner-wife, my parents still tended to listen to what would today be termed Country-Western music.

Naturally, some seventy years later, I still recall with fond memory their favorite singers and songs, especially when I hear them on rare occasions. As noted throughout this series of posts, those old largely forgotten and poorly regarded pieces of musical nostalgia take me back to those simple, carefree days of my country childhood.

Mama and Daddy in about 1927, the year they married on Christmas Day

Mama and Daddy in about 1927, the year they married on Christmas Day. Note Mama’s dress and cropped 1920’s haircut, once again a popular style today. (To magnify, click on the photo.)

For example, it was not surprising that as a cattleman Daddy’s favorite type of music was Western. He especially liked songs by Country-Western singers such as Eddie Arnold, whose “Cattle Call” is quoted above with a link to a video of him singing and yodeling that entire song. I still hear Daddy singing it as he too went about his daily chores of “rounding up [and dealing with] the cattle each [day].”

Eddie Arnold who sang the "Cattle Call"

Eddie Arnold who sang the “Cattle Call,” Daddy’s favorite song

Daddy also liked the music of other Country-Western singers such as Hank Williams. Hank was influenced by other singers whom Daddy liked such as Roy Acuff (mentioned above) and Ernest Tubb (whose album of biggest hits I still own and listen to, bringing back many memories of Daddy and his love for that type of Western singers and songs).

Unfortunately, Hank Williams died young in 1953. It was not long after Hank’s death that Daddy died in 1954 at the McGehee Livestock Auction where I was working in the back, penning cattle. (See my earlier post titled “My Father’s [Cattle] Brand and Seal.”) One of Hank’s songs that Daddy particularly liked and sang and whistled (as he did Eddie Arnold’s “Cattle Call” and Ernest Tubbs’ “I’m Walkin’ the Floor Over You”) was “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” (To listen to these songs, click on their titles.)

Ernest Tubb who sang "I'm Walkin' the Floor Over You"

Ernest Tubb who sang “I’m Walkin’ the Floor Over You”

Hank Williams who sang "Your Cheatin' Heart"

Hank Williams who sang “Your Cheatin’ Heart”

Finally, although Mama liked and listened to Gospel songs and hymns as well as Country-Western music, she also liked ballads and sentimental songs from Broadway musicals and movies. One was “After the Ball Is Over” quoted above from the 1936 Hollywood movie version of the Broadway musical Show Boat, two years before my birth. In fact, I heard it so much as a child that I learned the lyrics to it without ever seeing them or trying to memorize them. (To hear this song sung by Irene Dunne in Show Boat, click on the title.)

Irene Dunne who sang "After the Ball Is Over"

Irene Dunne who sang “After the Ball Is Over”

Mama also particularly liked one that I have never heard before or since (except perhaps on one occasion that I cannot now recall.) It was called “(My Sweet Little) Alice Blue Gown” from the 1919 Broadway musical titled Irene. After more than seventy years, while composing this post I finally went on Wikipedia and discovered the source of this term “Alice Blue gown” and its significance:

“Alice blue is a pale tint of azure that was favored by Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, which sparked a fashion sensation in the United States.

The hit song “Alice Blue Gown”, inspired by Longworth’s signature gown, premiered in Harry Tierney‘s 1919 Broadway musical Irene. The musical was made into a film in 1940 starring Anna Neagle and Ray Milland.”

The "Alice Blue Gown" my mother sang about so often

The “Alice Blue Gown” my mother sang about so often (to magnify, click on the photo)

That explanation makes one of my Mama’s favorite songs even more meaningful and dear to my heart. (To hear this old-fashioned song that I heard Mama sing so often I also learned its lyrics by heart, click here.)

Conclusion:
“Gone with the Wind”

“Rhett, Rhett… Rhett, if you go,
where shall I go? What shall I do?”
—Scarlett O’Hara to Rhett Butler
at conclusion of Gone with the Wind

Finally, Mama was obviously impressed with seeing her first full-color Hollywood movie in about 1939, the year after I was born. It was the blockbuster movie version of the best-selling book by Margaret Mitchell titled Gone with the Wind.

Scene from the 1939 film "Gone with the Wind"

Scene from the 1939 film Gone with the Wind (for maximum viewing effect, click on the photo)

Mama sometimes referred to scenes from that movie and enjoyed hearing the song “Tara’s Theme” which ran throughout it. (To view a video of this haunting melody, with dramatic scenes from the film, including two white peacocks and Scarlett in front of Tara, click on the title above. It is a perfect example of the music in a film telling us how to feel about what we are seeing.)

All of these songs and singers, and so many more, were a great influence on my childhood and thus on my entire life. For example, “Tara’s Theme” from GWTW always has a strong emotional appeal to me every time I hear it.

But the “soundtrack” of my young life began to change when my family moved from the country to town (from Selma to McGehee) in 1948 when I was ten years old. As a result, at the end of the 1940s my simple, idyllic boyhood country life began to disappear as it, like Scarlett O’Hara’s happy, familiar life at Tara, began to become a thing of the past . . . until eventually it too was totally “Gone with the Wind.”

In my next post, “The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Part II,” I will continue with some of the music from the 1950s, arguably the most musically influential period of my entire life.

Addenda:
Links to 1940s Music and Musical

In the past, my McGehee High School Class of 1956 classmate Pat Scavo (known to us then as Patsy McDermott) has sent me links to free old-time music which is divided into decades and played radio-style in random order.

Here are two such links for music of the 1940s along with many other musical links to other decades, old radio and TV shows, etc.:

http://www.tropicalglen.com/

http://www.1959bhsmustangs.com/videojukebox.htm

I hope you can access these sites and pick out the songs from the era you wish to listen to. I also hope they will “bring back [your] dream divine” so that you can also “live it over again.”

To view a video of an amazing 1940’s-style Boogie Woogie piano player and two jitterbug dancers in lively imitation of the music and dance craze of that era, go to:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWDfxgngrNc

Although the Hollywood musical Yankee Doodle Dandy was made during World War II (in 1942, the year that my Mari was born), I was too young to see it. However, decades later when I saw it on TV, it became one of my favorite movies, which I still watch often.

James Gagney playing showman George M. Cohan singing and dancing "I"m a Yankee Doodle Dandy" from the 1942 musical by that name

James Gagney as showman George M. Cohan singing and dancing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” in the musical by that name

Three of my favorite musical numbers from that movie are: “I’m a Yankee Doodle Yankee” sung and danced by James Cagney; “Mary’s a Grand Old Name,” sung by Irene Manning; and “Only Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway” and “So Long, Mary” sung and danced by Irene Manning and Chorus. (To view videos of these numbers, click on their titles. They are light years away from the Blues, Rhythm and Blues, and Rock and Roll songs that we teens listened to in the 1950s, the subject of my next post.)

 Sources

The original lyrics of “The Isle of Innisfree” can be accessed at:
http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/d/daniel_odonnell/the_isle_of_innisfree.html

The video of J.D. Summer and the Stamps Quartet singing “Give the World a Smile” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYYxsUjJzAk

The photo of J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quarter with Elvis Presley was taken from:
http://jdsumner.elvis.com.au/

The video of Jimmie Davis singing “You Are My Sunshine” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiRDVArEKL0

The photo of Jimmie Davis on a record cover was taken from:
www.slipcue.com/music/country/countryartists/davis_jimmie_01.html

The photo of the Malco Theater in McGehee, Arkansas, was taken from:
McGehee Centennial 1906-2006.

The videos of the Sons of the Pioneers singing “Cool Water,” “Tumbling Along with a Tumbling Tumbleweed,” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” were taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFBHc2qafgU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQc5gDXQGIs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcnDlgeUYs4

The photo of the Sons of the Pioneers with Roy Rogers was taken from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sons_of_the_Pioneers

The video of Gene Autry singing, “I’m Back in the Saddle Again” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80NoPLp-Zl0

The photo of Gene Autry was taken from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Autry

The video of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing, “Happy Trails to You” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcYsO890YJY

The photo of Roy Rogers was taken from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Rogers

The lyrics to the Roy Acuff version of “The Wabash Cannonball” were taken from “Metrolyrics” at:
http://www.metrolyrics.com/wabash-cannonball-lyrics-roy-acuff.html

The video of Roy Acuff singing “Wabash Cannonball” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yhvv234oaA

The photo of Roy Acuff was taken from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Acuff

The video of Mama Cass singing “Dream a Little Dream of Me” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4T3tMkjRig

The video of Bobby Darin singing “A Nightingale Sang in Barkley Square” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKvu-8Ac0x0

The photo of Kate Smith and the cast of her first radio show was taken from;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kate_Smith

The video of the Glenn Miller orchestra playing “In the Mood” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAQgXPTekOU

The photo of Glenn Miller was taken from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Miller

The lyrics of the song “Cattle Call” as sung by Eddie Arnold were taken from:
http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/classic-country/cattle-call—eddy-arnold-14949.html

The video of Eddie Arnold singing the Western song “Cattle Call” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtpbtKKXyuc

The photo of Eddie Arnold was taken from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddy_Arnold

The video of Hank Williams singing “Your Cheatin’ Heart” was taken from:
|https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jg2oR91_r5I

The photo of Hank Williams was taken from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_Williams

The video of Ernest Tubb singing “I’m Walkin’ the Floor Over You” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-0KHkf5V9

The photo of Ernest Tubb was taken from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Tubb

The lyrics of the 1890 song “After the Ball Is Over” was taken from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After_the_Ball_(song)

The video of Irene Dunne singing “After the Ball Is Over” from a 1936 film titled Show Boat was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXNJO6jgwy

The photo of Irene Dunne was taken from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irene_Dunne

The video of Joni James singing “Alice Blue Gown” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TojHJ3v2xN8&feature=youtube_gdata

The photo of the “Alice Blue Gown” was taken from:
http://www.georgetowner.com/media/images/derivatives/article_Alice20Roosevelt-BlueDress1_1.jpg

The quote of Scarlett O’Hara to Rhett Bulter at the conclusion of Gone with the Wind was taken from:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031381/quotes

The photo of Tara from Gone with the Wind was sent to me by Pat Scavo from an undisclosed source.

The video of “Tara’s Theme” from the film Gone with the Wind was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgF-rcHcPqE

The photo of James Gagney as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy was taken from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yankee_Doodle_Dandy

The video of James Gagney singing, “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StDpLge_ITM

The video of Irene Manning singing “Mary’s a Grand Old Name” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apy6Yp9O7AI

The video of Irene Manning and chorus singing “Forty-five Minutes from Broadway” and “So Long, Mary” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qydYuLlHdkQ

 

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Introduction

“In the life of a writer there are no extraneous experiences.”
—Anonymous
(Everything that happens to a writer
becomes grist for his mill.)

“I believe the future is only the past,
entered through another gate.”
—Arthur Wing Pinero
(I believe this truth applies also to the present!)

As indicated by the title and subtitle of this post, it has to do with the unexpected inspiration that I receive when I spend time in the blood center of a city hospital.

Since I suffer from a blood disorder (among a half-dozen other health problems), I am required to visit the blood center every two weeks for a blood test and injection, and about every four to six weeks for a two-part blood infusion (commonly called a transfusion).

Because of my other health issues, those regular blood infusions usually consist of two units of blood administered in separate sessions over a two-day period.

During each of those procedures I must spend three to four hours sitting in a recliner hooked up to an IV while Mari sits beside me in a straight chair in a cold and rather stark and sterile room. Although the nurses in the blood center are wonderfully warm and attentive, responding instantly and graciously to our every need and desire, there is no way they or anyone else can speed up the procedures.

Not being a fan of daytime television, which is provided for each individual patient, I had to find a different way to pass the time of each session.

At first, I tried reading (as Mari does), but I found it too difficult to concentrate in that situation and environment. Instead, I got the “inspiration” (a significant word!) to dig out the old Walkman portable cassette player and tapes that I used to listen to while exercising on the Nordic Track (what I termed the “Torture Rack”) many years ago. (To view an amusing video of modern-day children being presented an old portable Walkman cassette player, click here.)

(Note: To magnify the photos, click on each one as you view it.)

Walkman portable cassette player

Walkman portable cassette player

Me in the infusion center listening to the Walkman cassette player and holding tapes of Tennessee Ernie Ford and Elvis Presley

Me in infusion center listening to the Walkman cassette player and holding cassette tapes of Tennessee Ernie Ford and Elvis Presley. (Note my Arkansas Razorback cap, a symbol of the “Holy Land.”)

Little did I realize that “inspiration” was only the beginning of many that I would receive as I began to listen to those relics with the amazing power to recall the past in such vivid detail—and with such surprising power!

“There Is Power in the Blood”—
and in Memory as Well!

“There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the precious blood of the Lamb.”
—“There Is Power in the Blood”
(To view a video of Tennessee Ernie Ford
singing this old hymn, click here.)

Imagine my surprise when I sat in the recliner the next time, hooked up to that life-giving blood IV, and clicked on the cassette tape I had left in the old Walkman decades ago to suddenly hear Tennessee Ernie Ford enthusiastically sing forth, “THERE IS POWER IN THE BLOOD!”

Tape of Gospel songs by Tennessee Ernie Ford

Eight-track tape of Gospel songs by Tennessee Ernie Ford like the cassette tape versions I listen to in the infusion center

Coincidence? Perhaps.

Startling? Of course.

Accurate? Absolutely.

Not only was the experience startling and accurate, it was also encouraging and inspiring.

But it was only the beginning of many ongoing experiences of encouragement and inspiration I received as I listened to tape after tape and song after song from the happy days of our past lives. During the exciting days when Mari and I were still able to make our “semi-annual pilgrimages to the Holy Land” (our twice-a-year auto trips from Tulsa to our beloved homeland in Southeast Arkansas), we listened to those very same cassette tapes that were outdated even then.

But again what was most surprising was the number of memories that were triggered by those old songs, most of which we had not listened to in decades.

In an earlier post, dated August 3, 2011, and titled “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy!” I alluded to that marvelous power to evoke memories of the past by soul-stirring old hymns like the ones Tennessee Ernie and others like Elvis Presley sang on those ancient cassette tapes:

Still there’s somethin’ to be said for sittin’ and danglin’ your bare legs over the edge of an old uneven-legged, homemade slat pew in an unair-conditioned country churchhouse on a scorchin’ August evenin’ listenin’ to a red-faced, shirt-soppin’, brow-moppin’ Baptist preacher while watchin’ a busy dirt-dobber makin’ his rounds and wearin’ out both your wrists fannin’ your feverish, sweat-soaked face and shooin’ off blue-tailed flies.

Selma, Arkansas, Baptist Church

Selma Baptist Church (as it looked in the 1980s after the addition of air-conditioners) in my rural Arkansas birthplace where  as a boy I heard and sang so many of the familiar old hymns of the faith

But there is a consequence, an indelible trace left upon the heart by such experience. To this good day, more than sixty years later, I never hear or sing those old hymns we sang like ‘Amazing Grace,’ or ‘In the Garden,’ or ‘In the Sweet By and By’ without experiencing a strange bittersweet emotion: a sort of odd mixture of joy and pain, of peace and unrest, of a sense of tremendous gain and of unspeakable loss.

I think it has something to do with an old saying about being able to take the boy out of the country.

 Musical “Memory-Triggers” as
“Time-Travel Transporters”

“Turn back the hands of time;
Roll back the sands of time;
Bring back our dream divine,
Let’s live it over again.”
—Eddie Fisher, “Turn Back the Hands of Time”
(To view a YouTube video of this song, click here.)

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it,
and gave unto them, saying,
This is my body which is given for you:
this do in remembrance of me.”
—Jesus to His disciples in Luke 22:19 KJV

But again, it was not just the power of the old Gospel songs to evoke or “trigger” memories of the past that surprised and impressed me, but their power to serve as “time transporters,” their ability to take me back to earlier, happier days so that I could not only recall the past but also revive it and even relive it!

Although this concept may seem to be only science fiction, it is actually scriptural.

I am writing this post during Holy Week, that time in the traditional Church calendar in which Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, visited the Jewish temple, and observed the Passover meal with His disciples before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion.

At that Passover meal, also called the Last Supper, Jesus gave the disciples bread and wine, telling them to take it and eat it with this admonition, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19 paraphrased).

Leonardo da Vinci's painting of Jesus and disciples at the Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of Jesus and the disciples at the Last Supper

In this case, the word “remember” means more than simply to “recall.” It has the opposite meaning of “dismember.” That is, it means not only to “recall to memory” but actually to “put back together again,” not only to “recollect” but also to “reconnect.”

In the more traditional sacramental churches this is the prevailing view of the power of the Communion elements—the bread and wine—the power not just to evoke or trigger a memory of Jesus Christ and His passion, but to actually bring into the present what He did in the past, to bring the past alive and to take part in it here and now.

That is what happened to me as I listened to those old songs from the past, my personal past. They brought that past alive again and put me back into it, back along that “pilgrimage to the Holy Land” where I had listened to those same old songs so long ago.

But that was not the end of the return to the past I experienced. From there I was transported back to events in my younger days, decades earlier, when those old songs served as “the soundtrack of our young lives.”

This “double-layer-memory-trigger” phenomenon will be the subject of my next post.

Importance of Songs to Our Faith Journey

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept,
when we remembered you, O Zion.”
—Psalm 137:1 NRSV
As quoted in Forward Day By Day
www.forwardmovement.org
(To view a YouTube video of this song sung
by popular Irish singer Daniel O’Donnell, click here.)

It was at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa that Mari and I first encountered this sacramental understanding of the power of the Communion (or Eucharist) elements to bring into the present what occurred in the past, to bring the past alive and to relive it in the present.

Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma as it looked in the 1980s

Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa as it looked when Mari and were members from about 1986 to 2005

It is expressed by Mark Bozzuti-Jones in the March 28 entry of Forward Day By Day, the Episcopal daily devotional (italics mine):

Songs have strong associate meanings. When we hear certain songs, they place us in another time or place, they remind us of who we are and from where we’ve come. . . .

The people of Israel wondered how they could ever sing the Lord’s song in a strange land. They soon came to realize that they had to sing these songs, because of how important these songs were to their faith journey.

As Christians, we are called to find meaningful ways to sing the Lord’s songs, in our own land and in foreign ones, sometimes literally but always metaphorically.

Cover of the February/March/April issue of Forward Day By Day, the Episcopal daily devotional

Cover of the February/March/April issue of Forward Day By Day, the Episcopal daily devotional (Copyright 2015. Used by permission. http://www.forwardmovement.org)

This sacramental view of the events of Holy Week and indeed the entire Church calendar gave us a new perspective not only on the Communion (Eucharist) service and the events of Holy Week but indeed of the entire Christian worship experience.

We came to understand the meaning and purpose of the liturgy called The Stations of the Cross as a way not only to observe the events of Holy Week leading up to Easter but actually to participate in them vicariously, to in a sense bring them alive again so that we could take part in them.

As an example of this phenomenon of music taking us back into the past so that we can personally participate in events from it is illustrated by the old African-American spiritual titled “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” (To hear this old spiritual sung by the inimitable Marion Williams, which happens to be Mari’s maiden name, click here.)

Due to my failing health, Palm Sunday was the first time I was able to attend services at our local Methodist church since Christmas. After the congregation had proceeded to the front of the sanctuary bearing palm fronds, the children’s leader had the youngsters come forward. There she led them through a simple “journey” from one end of the curved chancel rail to the other. As she did so, she stopped them at a few places to call their attention to symbolic displays of Holy Week events (such as Jesus’ washing the feet of the disciples). At each “station,” she asked them questions to make sure they understood exactly what happened on that day during that week and what each event meant in the life of the Church.

First United Methodist Church of Sapulpa, Oklahoma

First United Methodist Church of Sapulpa, Oklahoma, of which Mari and I are members

Afterward, the pastor commented on how impressive that simple reenactment of the Stations of the Cross was to him and to the entire congregation as it brought all of us into those events with the children—and with Christ Himself.

That is what the old songs of faith I listen to on the outdated Walkman cassette player and tapes do for me as I lie in that cold hospital room receiving the life-sustaining blood that keeps me going Forward Day By Day.

Jimmy and Marion Peacock in a church photo at their fiftieth wedding anniversary

Mari and me in a photo made at the First United Methodist Church of Sapulpa at the time of our fiftieth wedding anniversary

Marion standing behind Jimmy at the infusion center

Mari standing behind me at the infusion center, as beautiful and as faithful as she has been now for more than fifty-two years, “in sickness and in health”

Those simple relics of the days gone by remind me of the past. But even more importantly. like the traditional events in the Church calendar. they transport me and reconnect me to the events of that past. They revive me (both physically and spiritually) and cause me to relive and participate in the events of the past, such as Holy Week and Easter, but also in my own life’s journey.

All Hail the Power!

“All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown Him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown Him Lord of all.

 “O that with yonder sacred throng
we at His feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song,
and crown Him Lord of all.
We’ll join the everlasting song,
and crown Him Lord of all.”
“All Hail the Power”
(To hear this old hymn sung by Ernie Ford
from the same cassette tape, click on the title.)

Of course, the ultimate end of that Holy Week journey reenacted in the Stations of the Cross is Easter, that glorious day when God resurrected His Son Jesus from death and restored Him to life—new life in all its glory and power.

A painting of the Resurrected Jesus by Raphael 1499-1502

A painting of the Resurrected Jesus by Raphael 1499-1502

The same power that I experience in the blood of others to give me new physical life, and in the blood of Jesus to give me new spiritual life, also resides in the name of Jesus to those who put their faith in Him.

On one Easter Sunday morning I was helping to serve meals to the hungry at our church’s feeding program. As one rather disheveled man came though the line he suddenly asked, “What is Easter anyway?”

Stunned, the other servers hesitated as if trying to decide how to respond to that unexpected spiritual question.

In a moment of inspiration (there’s that word again!) I said simply and kindly, “Easter is the day that God raised Jesus from the dead so that those of us who believe in Him will also be raised from death to life and spend eternity with Him.” (See John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 2:6-7.)

That quickly devised explanation of a very deep and far-reaching spiritual query seemed to satisfy the man as he nodded and moved on down the feeding line. Of course he obviously needed someone to lead him through the scriptures to a fuller understanding of the complete salvation message, but that had to wait until a more appropriate moment.

The point is that there is indeed power in the blood of the Lamb, and in the name of the Lord, and in the very hymns that proclaim both—and more—recalling the events of the past to revive, renew, and restore them, and those who listen to them.

I know, because I am one of them.

Conclusion

“And precious things are [memories] to an exile,
They take him to a place he cannot be.
Especially when it happens he’s an exile,
From friends and times he knew in Old McGehee.”
—My paraphrase of the Irish folksong
“The Isle of Innisfree”
(To view a YouTube video of this song,
with original lyrics,
sung by Celtic Woman, click on the title.)

The above paraphrased quote from the old Irish folk song titled “The Isle of Innisfree” was one I cited in a previous post on June 8, 2011, titled “My Annual Tributes to the Clique.”

The only change I have made in it for this context is to substitute the word “memories” for “dreams.”

Movie poster of the 1950 film "The Quiet Man" featuring the Irish folk song "The Isle of Innisfree"

Poster of the 1950 movie The Quiet Man which featured the Irish folk song “The Isle of Innisfree”

I chose it as an introductory quotation for this conclusion because it expresses the basic message of this post: the power of music to “take us to a place we cannot be” and to a time we seemingly cannot revisit.

I say “seemingly” because the fact is that through the “mystical means of music” we can actually “turn back the hands of time, roll back the sands of time” and be transported (if only for “one brief shining moment”) to an earlier place and time.

In this post I have limited that “faith journey” to Jerusalem during Holy Week and Easter, which is my Easter message: that we too, even two thousand years later and thousands of miles away, can actually participate in the events that took place in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and can then carry on that life in our own lives.

In the next post I will return to this same theme of the power of music to recall, resurrect, revive, and relive the past in a more personal, secular sense. It will be based on the “semi-annual pilgrimages to the Holy Land” that Mari and I used to make before we both became too old and infirm to literally take that journey into the past of our youth and young adulthood.

I hope you will come and take that “sentimental journey” with us!

Addendum:
Paintings of Stations of the Cross

After I had published this post I received an email message from Pat Scavo, a fellow classmate of mine and the former owner of the Blue Moon Art Gallery in Hot Springs. In that message Pat inserted a link to a series of paintings of The Stations of the Cross. To view those paintings on display at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Hope, Arkansas, and learn about the artist, Randall M. Good, go to: www.stmarkshope.org and then click on Stations of the Cross. Pat says about Good: “What I admire most about his artwork is how deftly he mixes Renaissance aesthetics with modern elements, yet still pays homage to his predecessors in his contemporary compositions.”

Sources

The photo of the Walkman cassette player and the video of children confronted by one were taken from:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2605138/Is-phone-The-hilarious-reactions-baffled-children-presented-Sony-Walkman-cassette-player.html

The lyrics to the song “There Is Power in the Blood” were taken from a Web site titled “Timeless Truths: Free Online Library” at:
http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/There_Is_Power_in_the_Blood/

The YouTube video of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing “There Is Power in the Blood” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tinAImvvtsk

The photo of the Tennessee Ernie Ford tape with the song “There Is Power in the Blood” was taken from:
http://www.8-track-shack.com/popup_image.php?pID=69344

The link to my earlier post titled “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” was taken from:
https://myokexilelit.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/thank-god-im-a-country-boy/

The YouTube video of Eddie Fisher singing “Turn Back the Hands of Time” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utijFt-tpNk

The photo of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper was taken from:
www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&…

The YouTube video of Daniel O’Donnell singing “By the Rivers of Babylon” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gg1JnpNBIoQ

The photo of Trinity Episcopal Church was taken from Behold the Glory: The Iconography of Grace. The Web site for Trinity can be accessed at:
http://www.trinitytulsa.org/

The quote from Mark Bozzuti-Jones in the March 28 issue and the photo of the cover of the Forward By Day were taken from: Forward Day By Day: February/March/April issue. Copyright 2015. Used by permission. www.forwardmovement.org

The YouTube video of Marion Williams singing “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu_GW2osRVA

The photo of the First United Methodist Church in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, was taken from an earlier church Web site. The current, updated Web site for FUMC in Sapulpa can be accessed at:
http://www.sapulpafumc.org/

The lyrics of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” were taken from a Wikipedia entry on that subject at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Hail_the_Power_of_Jesus’_Name

The YouTube video of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb1PEafAhCk

The painting of the Resurrected Jesus by Raphael 1499-1502 was taken from:
“Rafael – ressureicaocristo01” by Raphael – http://www.masp.art.br. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rafael_-_ressureicaocristo01.jpg#/media/File:Rafael_-_ressureicaocristo01.jpg

The paraphrased quote from “The Isle of Innisfree” was taken from a citation in my earlier post titled “My Annual Tributes to the Clique” at:
https://myokexilelit.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/my-annual-tributes-to-the-clique/

The original lyrics of “The Isle of Innisfree” can be accessed at:
http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/d/daniel_odonnell/the_isle_of_innisfree.html

The YouTube video of “The Isle of Innisfree” sung by Celtic Woman was taken from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xn7rjlOxfc

To learn more about this traditional Irish folk song used in the movie The Quiet Man, go to:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isle_of_Innisfree

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