Music as Story

There are two kinds of music listeners: those who love a song purely because of what was going on in their lives the moment they heard it and those who listen to every word of the lyrics and fall in love with the story.  I’ve always been the former, and still treasure so many songs I don’t know all the words to.

“I Wear My Sunglasses At Night” is really about my sister and I playing with these incredibly dorky hot-pink sunglasses / headbands in the backseat of our family’s car (always in the daylight, of course).  “Fishing in the Dark” was the obvious favorite song with my very first boyfriend when we went fishing in the dark.  Really, we were only fishing at that age.  “I Want You To Want Me” will forever be all about singing on the top of our lungs while assembling tip-ups at my high school summer job.  “The Dance” brings back the smell of campfires and those last bittersweet moments with my high school friends before heading off to college.  “Cecelia” still makes me wince at memories of terrible karaoke nights at the Second Street college bars.  And of course my wedding song “Wonderful Tonight” will always hold a special place in my heart.

But this week as I plan to take my daughter to On The Waterfront, a great local music festival, I’ve realized my musical allegiance has shifted.  When did I become a lyrics monger?  I now find the lyrics of “1985” hysterical, and must admit Gloria Gaynor and I became best buds while I was going through my divorce.  When Ally Carter blogged that “The Story of Us” inspired her fifth Gallagher Girls book, I analyzed the lyrics trying to figure out how it would impact the book.  And ever since the first Twlight movie I’ve been trying to decode the story behind “Flightless Bird, American Mouth.”  It’s such a beautiful song, yet the lyrics are complete gibberish to me.

Now that I’ve become uber-aware of lyrics, you can bet I’m taking my daughter to the music festival during the day when the more family friendly acts are playing.  We love the Kids Castle and the Kids Stage, but beyond that the whole place is a giant landmine for parents.  I’ve been studying the daytime acts, searching for online lyrics, trying to gauge which stages are safest for a five-year-old.  Why the sudden change of heart?  Because I’ve vowed not to become the parent whose three-year-old daughter belted out “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It” in public.  True story, and that father was mortified.  It’s bad enough my daughter loves to recite the entire song “BBB MY BFF”, the louder the better, without understand a single acronym in the song.  If she hears song lyrics from the Great Lawn Stage, we’ll never be able to leave the house again!


About Jennifer Kay

Jennifer Kay is a KidLit author and Structural Engineer. She has a VCFA MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, is an SCBWI Rockford Network Rep, edits the SCBWI IL Prairie Wind, and belongs to Mystery Writers of America. Jennifer works as a writer, freelance editor, literary agency reader, and creative writing teacher.
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