It was 1972 and I was in love. Not with a guy, but with a song. Namely: "Your Mama Don't Dance" by Loggins and Messina.
There I was, on a bus from Detroit to New York City. The bus stopped for a break at a small diner and I got myself a cup of coffee, then scanned the jukebox. I was in luck! I had just twenty minutes before the bus would leave again. So I pressed E4 and the first line of the song lit me up from the inside like nothing else: "Your mama don't dance and your daddy don't rock and roll."
Does anything feel better than listening to your favorite song? From the first words, time stopped, all my cares vanished, and I was totally lost in the absolute joy of (to use a phrase popular at the time) grooving on the music. The beat. That catchy hook. The sense of fun. Lyrics with a rebellious edge. Perfect for a suburban 17-year-old. Perfect for me.
The song ended. Then, a moment later, it began again. A few people looked up. Was the jukebox stuck? I didn't care about them. I was blissfully enjoying my favorite song. Again.
When "Your Mama Don't Dance" began a third time, folks began looking around. Maybe the jukebox wasn't broken after all. Had somebody done this on purpose? What kind of an idiot would play the same tune over and over?
Me! I was that idiot! That's how I've always felt about music. Once I fall for a song, I'll play it to death and run it right into the ground. And why not? Loving new music is a great addiction—the right song can be both a high and a refuge. And chasing a song—finding a new tune that is a direct shot to my heart—has long been one of the organizing principles of my life.
Still, I was beginning to feel a bit guilty about inflicting my favorite pop duo on my fellow travelers. If somebody had done that to me—if they had, for instance, ruined fifteen minutes of my life by repeatedly playing Chicago's "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is"—I would've wanted to strangle them.
And yet, by the time "Your Mama Don't Dance" began for the fifth spin, a few diners were chuckling. And when, after that, the song failed to begin again, people just shook their heads and smiled.
You could say I was a silly, self-absorbed teenage girl. Or you could say that playing that song five times in a row in a diner in rural Ohio was an early work of conceptual art. Or you can say nothing because you've probably done the same exact thing.
That was more than 40 years ago, and I've never forgotten the thrill, in those pre-iPod days, of finding my favorite song on the jukebox and just playing the hell out of it. It hits a pleasure center, like food and sex, that makes you hunger for more.
We Boomers, like other generations, continue to love the tunes that we played on the jukebox when we were young: The Beatles, Dylan, Joni, Billy Joel. I still love Billy Joel, but unlike many of my peers, I've never stopped looking for something new. Jonathan Coulton, Girlyman and Fountains of Wayne are some of my new favorites (even though when I attend their shows, I'm often the only sixtysomething in the room).
Music obviously means a lot to me. Maybe a little too much. I can't remember names or faces, but I never forget a good tune. And while my relationships wax and wane, I'll stay true to a good song forever. When I was 7, I crushed out on "Moon River." At 15, it was Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl." At 17, "Your Mama Don't Dance." At 20? "Instant Karma."
I love them all still, but I think I may have a wire crossed in my head. The deep love that other women feel for men, I feel for music. For example, songs that my ex and I first fell in love to—by Leonard Cohen and Fleetwood Mac—have far outlasted our marriage.
A good song will never disappoint you, but a good man? He's only human.