Melodies Of My Life

Her voice was soft and soulful. I used to play her albums more times than I’d like to admit — and sometime still do. The other night I came across a PBS show about singer Karen Carpenter and her brother, Richard. I paused to listen as Karen sang, rushing me back to times and places in my life. Songs like “Superstar” and “Ticket to Ride” — she did them to perfection, with each note swirling away inside my heart.

How many weddings in the ’70s did you hear “We’ve Only Just Begun” played as the bride and groom danced their first dance? Karen Carpenter had a God-given talent that left this earth too soon. But her music is indelible. The worn cover of an album sitting next to my turntable backs up that statement.

When we moved a few years ago, I uncovered about a dozen old albums in the attic. Some I inherited from other family members and others were my own purchases at Value City, Murphy’s or other downtown stores. My husband laughed when he saw how many 45 rpm records I kept.

Yes I had the Beatles, Monkees and The Carpenters, but there were others, too. I will always be a Beatles fan, but only their early stuff.

It’s funny how a song can jolt me back to a place or time of my youth. I grew up through Perry Como to Led Zeppelin and beyond. I sang along with Peter, Paul and Mary and danced to the dizzy noise of the Rolling Stones. Friends were made, kept and lost in a whirl of songs that accompanied us from childhood to senior citizens.

When the Bee Gees’ song “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” slips out of the car radio speakers, I am back in high school. Back to 1971, the same year John Denver’s “Country Roads” topped the Billboard Chart.

Then came Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and Don McLean’s “American Pie” and I’m a teenager sitting at Joe’s Bar & Grill in Center Wheeling with Central Catholic classmates. We are dining on grilled cheese sandwiches flattened in butter by a silver foil-covered brick. Joe was the true inventor of the panini sandwich and didn’t know it. They cost 60 cents and were delicious. We took bites between singing lyrics of the songs spilling out of the juke box. Music is universal. It’s personal, too. To this day, James Taylor brings me to the edge of tears as he promises “You’ve Got a Friend.”

Maybe you have some dusty old albums or records sitting around the attic. Well, they are hip again. Vinyl has made a comeback. I never really knew it went away. Most of my favorite records are pretty worn and tired. But I will, on occasion, crank up the volume and listen to them, scratches, skips and all.

The records forever keep friends tucked into the melodies of my heart.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at: hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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