In my everyday existence there is rhythm. My life has a soundtrack, a pulsating beat which inspires, words that move me, and a flow as smooth as butter. I performed an experiment recently where I attempted to survive a day without music. I failed miserably. Like air, water, or food, music is essential to my survival.
Maybe I didn’t know before. Maybe I just didn’t pay attention. Every mood or feeling I have is heightened, inflated, deflated, and defined by the music playing around me or in my soul. Auditory or imaginary, the music is always playing. There isn’t a genre that I don’t appreciate, and as with my life, there are no boundaries.
My memories seem to come with accompanying songs, musical pieces which define, describe, or vividly recall a moment in time. On a hot summer day in either 1980 or ’81, I was drenching myself in an open fire hydrant on 36th and Lake Park. The atmosphere was filled with the sounds of laughter and joy, bodies undulating under the relief of the cold water. I remember that my life changed that day when an older boy, a teenager, turned up the volume on his boombox. It seems as if everything paused at that moment, or at least it does in my memory. A song played, and I swear the world stopped to listen. The water froze in midair it seemed, as something new became part of my soul. The beat was kind of familiar, but the words were being phrased in a way I had never heard. It wasn’t singing, but it wasn’t talking. Not really. There was something being said about Superman, Lois Lane, the Holiday Inn, and being at a friend’s house to eat and the food “ain’t no good.” Yeah, ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by the Sugar Hill Gang played on a portable radio (probably with D batteries!), and I fell in love with hip-hop.
Life is a series of domino effects, with each small thing affecting something else, each piece resonating and reverberating into infinity. I think it was predestined for me to live in rhythm, bopping to the beat of life, and dancing to music which maybe only I could hear. My brother named me after his second favorite member of The Jackson Five, Marlon. They were his favorite group, and he listened to their albums over and over. Of course, I learned and knew the lyrics, but my brother never let me sing lead, only the background. To this day, when a song by the Jackson Five comes on the radio, I know all of the background choruses. How did singing background shape my character? I don’t play second fiddle to anyone, and I’m the lead singer in my life… a lesson learned from being forced to hide my light, so to speak. Nevermore.
I was at a party in the mid-eighties, full of teenagers and young adults, and I witnessed a phenomena I would become familiar with. Funny, I’m now in my forties, and I’m still mesmerized by the transformation which happens when ‘house music’ is played. I feel sorry for those who have never witnessed so-called “cool” people lose all dancing inhibitions when ‘house music’ is pounding through the speakers. Arms flailing, spinning in circles, souls in sync as the dancing masses perform an intricate ballet of sweat-inducing moves, voices unified as one, yelling to the unseen gods of dance “You used to know how to love me right!” My wife threw a basement party recently for her birthday, and as the guests danced, I swear I was transported back in time to when I first learned how to “jack my body.”
Music is a living, breathing thing, its roots dug into my soul so deeply that I can’t go a day without it. I like to think of music as a link to every other living thing, as well as a song of homage to people and times which no longer exist. The drums harken to the ancestors, the lyrics to the griots and troubadours who inspired and entertained. On Sunday mornings, we listen to music in my house, starting with a gospel song, then giving way to blues, jazz, rap, R&B, alternative, country, heavy metal, and pop. They are all interchangeable, especially when one’s soul is open and listening.
The lineage of music and songs is amazing. Especially when the music encourages one to go deeper, to explore beneath the surface, to discover the origins of where a song or musical form came from. There are those who don’t realize they’ve closed their ears to the possibilities, refusing to leave the confinement of only listening to one or two particular genres. Y’all are truly missing out. The blues and country music are only different in the way the instruments are played and the intonation of the singer’s voice. There’s a song called ‘She is his only need’ by Wynonna Judd which is one of the most beautiful, heartfelt songs I’ve ever heard. I’d have never heard it if I only listened to one or two genres.
Whether cooking at home, barbecuing, on my way to work, on a date with my wife, on a road trip, at a family gathering, or enjoying my solitude, the music is playing. If I were to pick a theme song for myself, it would most likely be ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ by David Bowie, one of my favorite artists. I’m as diverse in my musical tastes as I am in the way I live my life. I flow from Clapton to Prince, from Leadbelly to Nirvana, The Temptations to Dru Hill, B.B. King to Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash to Nine Inch Nails, The Beatles to Earth, Wind, and Fire, George Clinton to The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lauryn Hill to Alannis Morrisette, Nina Simone to Gwen Stefani, Pearl Jam to The Rolling Stones. I live my life in rhythm, in sync with myself, unafraid to test boundaries and experience life outside of the box. Music provides a beautiful soundtrack to my life, inspiring me in all that I do. I write poetry while listening to Coltrane, fiction listening to The Eagles, and I daydream about the path ahead while listening to Billie sing ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business.’ To Him, who is the inspirer and Creator of all things, thank you again.
Marlon S. Hayes is a writer, poet, blogger, and author. Follow him at Marlon’s Writings on Facebook, Voices from the Bleachers on Facebook, marlonhayes.wixsite.com/author, and on Amazon. He is currently on a mission to submit one hundred poems, short stories, essays, articles, and novels to publishers, anthologies, and magazines in 2018. Eighty to go…