Saturday, September 6, 2014

Just me and my music

Last night, while flipping through the 200 or so cable channels looking for something to watch while I foam rolled and stretched, I saw that one of my favorite shows was on PBS (really, who needs cable?)--Austin City Limits. What a great show, if you like good music! I do. Last night we watched Dale Watson. Talk about a trip back in time--about 20 years ago, my husband and I saw him live at a little bar in Chicago called Schubas. In the back of the bar is a small music room where about 200 people can watch live music. Back in the day, Schubas had an "Americana series" featuring lesser known alt-country artists for about $5-10/ticket. We saw a lot of great music through this series, and Dale Watson was one of those artists. When we left that night, we asked each other why he wasn't more famous. Last night we got to hear him on ACL and that deep baritone was unforgettable. But we were surprised by his white hair and how old he has gotten. Twenty years will do that to a person, I guess... We reminisced about all the great music we saw at Schubas and it was kind of fun to take that trip down memory lane.

Isn't it funny how a song or artist can trigger a flow of memories?

Some science behind my musings...

The part of the brain that retrieves and supports memories also links music, memories, and emotions. Familiar songs light up the areas in green in this picture. This research is being applied to people with Alzheimer's dementia, in the hopes of developing music based therapy for this population. Music is also being used to trigger memories in people with severe brain damage. 
Music has always been a big part of my life. When I hear Johnny Cash, I'm brought back to my years as a young girl, trying to sleep while my parents had parties in the downstairs family room of my house. Family parties in the backyard when the adults drank too much and the kids got to run wild without much supervision. On the nights when my mom was out playing bridge with her friends, my dad would spin his 45s on the stereo console in the living room and he and I would listen together. This was mostly music from the late 50s and early 60s. But it is the memory of sharing music with my dad, just him and me (because my sisters weren't interested) that I cherish. Later, when he built a rec room over his garage and put in a jukebox filled with these songs, parties used to revolve around this 50s music. Hank Williams, Buddy Holly...I know their songs and their stories well.

Later as a teen, I began developing my own (at times questionable) taste in music. I liked loud rock music. My first concert was Boston, in 1978 at the Chicago Amphitheater. Now, when I hear Boston on the radio, I'm transported back to my 16 year old self, driving my 1973 red Pontiac Firebird (yep, with the bird on the hood), windows down, stereo turned way up (and yes, I had an 8 track player), and thinking I was just the coolest kid.  The oldies stations play all my music from high school now, and a lot of it makes me cringe. Styx? Foreigner? Kansas? I still know all the words to Walk This Way, and Aerosmith always makes me smile! But don't judge me too much...I did listen to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin too!

Music makes the whole brain light up! Another study showed a that music activates areas of the brain responsible for motor activity, emotions, and creativity. Yet another study showed that listening to music boosts athletic performance by increasing motivation. Yes!

Even my running playlist, which is always evolving, has some of this music. And while I pride myself in having pretty good taste in music, I do have some questionable choices on my playlist. After all, to be a good running song, it has to have a steady beat and some motivating lyrics. I do have a Boston song that I like to run to. In years past, Nickelback has graced my playlist--recently one of their songs has made a reappearance on the list. I still favor the loud rock and roll that has always pumped me up, even when I wasn't a runner. While I don't think I'd listen to Invincible by Adelitas Way at home, it sure drives me forward! Earlier this week while I was doing my speed work, Eminem's 'Till I Collapse came on and I just about jumped out of my shoes to get moving. And I know this song has nothing to do with running but here are the lyrics that got me going:

"This is your moment and every single minute you spend trying to hold onto it 'cause you may never get it again. So while you’re in it try to get as much shit as you can. And when your run is over just admit when it's at its end."

As I approach the date of my 2d Chicago Marathon, I've started picking songs for my marathon playlist. The crowds there are really loud and I don't know if I'll be able to hear my music at times, but I want to be prepared with songs that will drive me forward, make me feel strong, help me reach down deep when I want to quit, and make me want to sing. Eminem's 'Till I Collapse will be there, as will his other running staple Lose Yourself. Another perpetual favorite on my last Chicago marathon playlist was Fly From the Inside by Shinedown, and the lyrics still resonate with me today:

"I am focused on what I am after, The key to the next open chapter. 'Cause I found a way to steal the sun from the sky. Long live that day that I decided to fly from the inside"

I also brought back this chestnut from the 1980s by Webb Wilder-- Tough it Out:

"I won't bow, I won't bend, I won't break, I'll tough it out. I won't budge, I won't deal, I won't change, I'll tough it out. (tough it out) Keep Rockin' (tough it out) No stoppin' 'Til I win the prize, I'll tough it out. (tough it out) straight ahead (tough it out) knock'em dead no compromise I'll tough it out."

Last but not least is Tom Petty's Running Down A Dream. Besides great lyrics, it has a great beat that makes you pick up the pace:

Yeah runnin' down a dream. That never would come to me. Workin' on a mystery, goin' wherever it leads.Runnin' down a dream 

Deal breakers? I don't like pop very much. After a few listens, most pop songs become tiresome and repetitious to me. I've made exceptions for Pharell's Happy--because it is just so darn infectious and makes me smile AND I listened to it last year for my strong Fox Valley Half Marathon; Britney Spears' Work Bitch--self explanatory; and Calvin Harris' Let's Go, because Beth at Shut Up and Run recommended it. .

Part of my love for running is about the music. I like to lose myself in the music, running to a song I know and love, where the run feels effortless. I love just running along, no thoughts in my head, just the is my escape, my me time, time where I can be alone with my music and my pace. It's truly why I enjoy running long distances. I don't know if everyone can understand that. Sometimes I don't always get it. But on those mornings when I'm driving to work and I'm not feeling it, I play my running music in the car, and it really gets me revved up for the day. As if I'm going for a run.

Funny how music can do that, isn't it?

Favorite songs? What drives you to a strong finish? Perpetual favorite songs to run to? And no, I'm not a fan of Eye of the Tiger. It's too slow!


  1. If you like to run with music, you should definitely try my sons' app, TrailMix Pro, for the iPod or iPhone. It has a a free version or the pro version. It detects your pace and as you go faster or slower your music will seamlessly match your pace. Not to brag or anything but I am a proud mama....

    1. Oooh! I will definitely look into this! Thanks for the recommendation. And brag away....

  2. Awesome post! Songs def stamp moments in time. And eye of the tiger. Yeah I hear it and need to run. #crazymamarunner