‘Soul-nourishing’ music to live by

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Music has filled every corner of my life since I was a child.

I can remember early mornings at my dad’s house. I was supposed to be awake and getting ready for school. Instead, I turned my alarm off and pulled the covers over my head. I am not a morning person and likely never will be.

But my dad had a strategy for this. He would walk over to our living-room stereo, pop in “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and blast “Good Morning, Good Morning.” Then he’d throw the door of my room open and say “Arise, Sir Loin of Beef.” (For those of you who don’t know, that’s an old Bugs Bunny gag.)

Both of my parents are big music lovers.

My dad was the district manager for a record store chain back in the 1990s, and my mom is an avid musical theater fan. Singing out loud was not an unusual occurrence in either of their houses, and is now something I joyfully do in my own home — much to my boyfriend’s annoyance.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t listen to music.

I listen to a classical music station at work. I flip through radio stations while I drive and have a large stack of CDs on hand should I get annoyed with commercials. I have three pairs of headphones — one each for home, the office and my purse. This way, I always have a way to listen to tunes.

Much of this comes from my dad. He grew up in a tiny town in southern Illinois, and music was his escape. He and his friends would frequently drive to Springfield and spend hours combing through records. Some of the bands my dad already knew. Others, he picked simply because he liked the album cover. To this day, I have yet to meet a person who knows more about music than my dad.

Famed neurologist and author Oliver Sacks was also a music lover. During his long career studying the brain, he frequently looked into how music impacted the mind. His book “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain” talks about several conditions in which music made an impact — brain development, memory and strange cases where people hear music in their heads. The book also talks about how Sacks got his own love of music from his parents.

Last month, I wrote about self-care for my column. For me, listening to music is one of the best forms of self-care I know. Certain songs still give me chills when I listen to them, even if I’ve listened to them hundreds of times.

In “Musicophilia,” Sacks had this to say about how the art form impacts our emotions: “Music, uniquely among the arts, is both completely abstract and profoundly emotional. It has no power to represent anything particular or external, but it has a unique power to express inner states or feelings. Music can pierce the heart directly.”

We all have artists to whom we can relate: Ones that help us get through hard times, cheer us up on sad days or just make us feel like we want to dance.

After Tom Petty died in 2017, I texted my dad to say I was bummed. His response was “At every point in my life, high or low, there was always great Tom Petty music to get me through. And even though he’s gone now, there still is.”

David Bowie is my artist of choice. For nearly 50 years, Bowie made music across genres and for every mood. I love to dance to “Golden Years” and “Never Let Me Down.” On sad days I listen to “Dollar Days,” a song from the “Blackstar” album that Bowie released days before his death in 2016. I’m listening to “Starman” while writing this column.

In 2002, during an interview with LiveWire, Bowie had this to say about music: “On the other hand, what I like my music to do to me is awaken the ghosts inside of me. Not the demons you understand, but the ghosts.”

Though our favorite artists may be gone, they still contribute to what my dad calls “the soul-nourishing power of music.” Music connects people. It heals them. When I’ve had a bad day, I put on show tunes and sing my heart out. I’ve made lifelong friendships based on people’s similar tastes in bands. No matter where I am, or how I feel, music grounds me and makes me feel at peace.

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