The Annotated Discography of Your Life - NPR's Six Songs Playlist with a Twist: Part I
Rhodesia - The Early Years: (1970-1972)
I was born in Rhodesia (pre-Zimbabwe independence) but I have very few memories of life there as I had only just turned two when we left on the Windsor Castle from Cape Town. What I "remember" is visceral: sight - the colour of the red, red soil, and sound. The music of the region where we lived would have been that of the Ndebele (Click here for the history of the Ndebele in Zimbabwe as they were not indigenous to that region but invaded and absorbed the indigenous population in what became the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe.)
I don't remember specific songs but this Myeya Wangu type of music still gives me goosebumps and has been known to make me misty-eyed. My Spirit (English translation) is sung by the Arundel 'Voices of Zimbabwe Choir' from the Arundel school in Harare, Zimbabwe.
And although this song: War/No More Trouble obviously doesn't belong to that part of the playlist of my life - I wonder if my visceral response to issues of human rights, assimilation, hegemony, superiority, in and out-group belonging, began in unspoken and unarticulated things from my first 24 months in the bush in Africa ...
Highlander - There Can be Only One: (1972 - 1982)
Raised in a fundamentalist, small, small denomination in the Highlands of Scotland with more 'power' than its size should have allowed for, music was an instrument of the devil. Well, really everything was an instrument of the devil - playing cards, music that was not the Psalms, the playing or watching of sports, skirts that were too long, or were too short, or had slits; hair worn up, or down (that might have been a marital status thing); bright colours were frowned upon (at least that's how I internalized it but maybe it was just for women who were married to ministers :p ) but I digress.
The paranoia around music and its satanic influences was pervasive. So naturally, :p ... I loved music. My older siblings had freedom from the age of 12 being in a boarding school 60+ miles away and so my introduction to music was partly shaped by what they smuggled back home on weekends: REO Speedwagon, Black Sabbath, Genesis, Supertramp. These are the songs that defined me then.
Breakfast in America (1979) had a number of songs that I loved, loved, loved that defined all the angry, angry frustration that I had, even at that age, with the constraints and constructs of my upbringing. The Logical Song reflected the frustrations and Lord is it Mine reflected the sadness that arises when who you be is antithetical to who you are told to be. Dark Side of the Moon (1973) by Pink Flyod summed up for me where the differences leaves you.
And somehow despite music being mostly verboten - there were a ton of songs that we had learned by heart and used to sing in the car on the 80 miles down to my grandmother's in Muir-of-Ord from Shieldaig (where we lived). Crystal Gale's River Road, Kenny Roger's The Gambler, Lucille, Ruby. Traditional Scottish folk songs: Dark Island, Flower of Scotland, Mharhi's Wedding etc. Part of the glee of singing those songs on the drive was not just to pass the time but also because it made my brother batty. I have a playlist on my iPod that is called Road to Inverness which has 30 songs on it. Hey, an 80 mile drive one way on a single track road takes a fair bit of time - though those songs only take up 1.8 hours. Maybe that's why we sang them over and over :p :D
Bruce County Years - Will it be a Snow Day Today?: (1982 - 1988)
The playlist for high school would be too long but a few stand out for me - one in relation to the Honour Band and Choir concert for Bruce County that was held in Kincardine (of the Ontario, Canada variety as we moved from Scotland to Chesley in 1982)
That was the year that I was part of the Honour Choir (I vaguely think that was '86). Sitting in the auditorium between practices listening to Kevin M. playing Stairway to Heaven by Led Zepplin. While the linked version is from the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts tribute to Led Zepplin and not a video of Kevin playing his cover, I'm pretty sure that's when my crush on the bass guitar guys in bands began LOL.
Other songs that were a massive part of my high school days - Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer (actually all of Slippery When Wet - I know most of the lyrics), Mr. Mister's Kyrie Eleison, Tear's for Fear's Woman in Chains and Everybody Wants to Rule the World; Talking Heads' Nothing but Flowers, Glass Tiger's Don't Forget Me, Simple Minds's Belfast Child/Mandela Day/Biko, and Midnight Oil's Beds are Burning.
And then, there was Corey Hart - I Wear my Sunglasses at Night. I need say no more. I was a teenager. :D And let's not forget the soundtracks for Footloose (turned 30 this month) and Top Gun.
University of Western Ontario - Thunderstorm Alley: (1988 - 1993)
My undergrad was a blur for a whole variety of reasons that would be a bummer to talk about and not that interesting to 99%. Soundtrack for that era was folk - aided and abetted by the annual folk festival in Victoria Park in downtown London - The Gurriers from out East (you can find the student radio station CHRW archive of them from 1993 here (You can listen to the songs - titles hyperlink to mp3) and Uisce Beatha. One of my favourites from Uisce Beatha is the song Tenderness Behind the Rage
In addition to the Gurriers and Uisce Beatha, there was the Rankin Family, Spirit of the West, Loreena McKennit, Jewel, the Cowboy Junkies, and Arrendale. I also got more into solo artists with one standout by happenstance. I had ended up at a restaurant - Kipling's I think - having dinner with a friend and there was an artist playing up at the front by the very small dance floor with an electric piano and not much else really. Someone called Sarah McLachlan - and very quickly I had Fumbling Toward Ecstasy on heavy play. I also discovered Leonard Cohen during this period and never went anywhere without a substantial amount of his music with me at all times.
My ex brother-in-law, Shaun, was also pretty good at suggesting artists to me that he thought I would like - Alanis Morissette being the first of those. I wasn't so much a radical feminist during those years as a really grumpy one :p so Alanis appealed to me a lot :D .
Also everything Tori Amos did. I was in a vintage clothing story with my friend Sherry and was absolutely transfixed by the song Crucify. I devoured everything Tori produced from that moment.
I also fell in love with the Blues in London as there was a great Blues festival in August every year in Thames Park with the great towering, giant willow trees, down by the gentle, and (at that point in the summer) shallow Thames river. There were also ribs and other general forms of bbq as I think it may have been a ribfest/blues festival. I remember none of the artists though I wonder if that was where I ran across Kenny Wayne Shepherd and fell in love with Blue on Black? Hmm ...
University of Calgary - the Law School Years: (1993 - 1999)
My law degree was a blur for a whole variety of different reasons that would equally be of no interest to 99%. My music tastes stayed largely unchanged. Mostly folk and blues music, Bonnie Raitt, Sade, Sheryl Crow with sprinklings of rock here and there in terms of Bon Jovi. Or maybe just Bon Jovi :P
I was still listening to lots of female artists during this period as well: Fiona Apple (Criminal), Natalie Cole, Amanda Marshall (Last Exit to Eden), the Holly Cole Trio (whom I discovered on my trans-Canada road trip back to Ontario after first year was over) and Holly Near, who was and is an amazing activist singer.
A couple of friends in law school introduced me to the Arrogant Worms. If you've never heard them, they are like catnip for history nerds and those with Canadiana funny bones. My favourite of their songs had to be The Last Saskatchewan Pirate. Still is for that matter.
This was still pre iPod days but I had my trusty army-green Sony walkman which went everywhere with me. Looking back I marvel at how I was willing to spend time putting together mixed tapes. But generally law school was a bit of a drought period for me in terms of music. Calgary wasn't the greatest city for getting around as a walker so I didn't get out to as many festivals etc. as I had in my undergrad in London.
Ontario Public Service - The Yes, Minister Years: (2000 - 2020)
Arriving Soon ...