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The Power of Playback

Tiffany Mosig - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Regardless of age, hometown, or current status, your life’s soundtrack is always recording in the background. That’s why your mind goes to familiar places and times when you hear certain songs. Music is a powerful glue for memory and learning. How many little kids would remember their ABCs without the alphabet song?


Like sonic flypaper, songs help you hold onto memories. They attach themselves to the angst of teenage rebellion, the pangs of love, the sadness of a broken heart, and the joy of independence. And they capture the mood of world events.


A Change is Gonna Come, Blowin’ in the Wind and Respect transport some back to the protests of the late 1960’s. 1979 Pittsburgh fans still smile when they hear We are Family. And people all over the world got on the Happy train with Pharrell in 2013.


While surfing radio stations by decade I thought, “Great! All my old faves should be on this channel!” And they were. But so was something else. All the other background noise of the day was also sticking to my life. My mood changed with each channel.


Turns out as much as we know about music, it knows a lot more about us…like which years really were happier, more liberating, or difficult. Even my favorite songs couldn’t drown out the feelings evoked by each decade of music. I discovered that some of my favorite songs were part of the least favorite times of my life; and hearing many forgettable songs actually made me feel really good.


As old classics are reborn into new generations, they will open up new conversations between us. Do you remember when Queen released “Bohemian Rhapsody” in 1975? Or 1992 when Garth and his buddies bounced up and down singing it in a car? This year multiple generations will see the movie; and maybe together we will learn more about each other, and ourselves.

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