Perhaps some of you readers may have noticed that I quite often mention a song at the beginning of many of my articles. The following story is submitted to supply the reason for the appearance of these songs:
As I lay in bed the other morning the thought came to me that something was wrong. Something was missing, something that had always been present on previous mornings.
Into my recall came the story I had read recently about a similar incident happening to a man who had been away from home for more than a week. He was missing something that in other days had always been with him. After some 30 minutes of study on the subject he discovered that the missing element was his heart-burn. He remembered that everything he ate at home gave him heart-burn and now that he had been eating different foods for over a week his heart-burn had disappeared.
Laying there pondering what my missing element might be it suddenly came to me. It was the music!! The music that had been my constant mind companion for so many, many years was not there this morning. Why? Where had the music gone?
For decades my every waking moment that was not engaged in some mind absorbing activity was filled with music and songs from the past. In most cases even though my mind might be occupied by a thought, the songs were there in the form of soft background music.
Every night when I arise for my frequent trips to the bathroom the music was there waiting for me. After returning to bed that song would remain in my head until I fell asleep again.
I found through the years that the songs that remained with me the longest were those I remembered only a few lines of the words. Songs appearing in my mind for which I remembered all of the words were soon replaced with others containing lines recalled only in fragmented snatches. The consistency of the appearance of the words and music throughout my days and nights has amazed me for all of these years.
During these years I have often wondered if I should go to a mind reader and learn their thinking on why my mind is always filled with music and song. However, being somewhat of a tightwad and not necessarily believing in the ability of seers, I decided to just enjoy the music and to forget the reason for it’s appearance.
Also during these years I have played a game of song lines with my wife. For instance: when I get up of a morning or as I drive home for lunch I may be humming a song and as soon as I step into the kitchen where she is working I will say a line from the song I have had in my mind.
Perhaps I might sing to her, “It seems to me I’ve heard that song before.”
Having been exposed to this for years, and providing she knows the next line, she will continue the game by saying “It’s from an old familiar score, I know it well—that melody.”
Later in the afternoon I might suddenly say to her “Tho’ we said good-bye when the moon was high—?” This time she might say “Sorry, I don’t know that one”. To which I will reply “For goodness sakes I was just trying to get you to ask “Does your heart beat for me?” then I in turn would ask “I wo-nder if I still lin-ger in your mem—o-ry?”
Sometimes she plays the game real well—other times it’s like pushing a wet rope. I have often tried to get her to ask me sometimes “What are you singing today Bill?”, but not having music on her mind all the time she can’t remember to ask, so mostly I just continue to sing to myself.
I have often played this game of “fill in the next line” with my neighbor to the south while we are fishing or playing golf. He is quite adept at this game as long as I stay in the limits of old western and honky-tonk music. More will be said about this game and my neighbor in a short story I have written entitled “Don’t Call Me Shorty” which will appear in this column at some later date.
I would be unable to play this game with youngsters of today for I know not their music, but it should be fun for the older set who still remember yesterday’s music. (As a singer of these old tunes Corky Steffens should be a whiz at this game.) The other day while discussing this phenomenon of “music on your mind” with the ladies at the library I learned that I was not alone in this lingering attachment to a particular piece of music. One of the librarians told me that every time someone asks for the sequel to Larry McMurtury’s “Lonesome Dove” she immediately starts humming “The Streets of Laredo” and it remains with her throughout the day.
But to get back to my story of the missing music. After arising and while taking my bath I was still wondering where the music had gone and what I was going to occupy my mind with in it’s absence. However, I soon found that a habit as old as this one could not be so easily broken, and as I stood there shaving, into my mind came the words and music of an old time church song. This song sung so often in the days of my youth came back clear as a bell as if from yesterday.
I said “hallelujah the music is back” and I immediately started singing “Standing on the Promises of God”, a song I had not heard or sung in over 50 years. As I sang this song the deep booming voice of one I so well remembered from the early days of the First Christian Church in Brady, Mr. Marion Deans, joined in with me to carry the bass. Throughout the many years that this “mind singing” has plagued me there was one thing I could count on: — when it was a church song Mr. Deans would always be there to sing bass.
What had caused this short absence of the music? I cannot give a reason, but now I am ready once again should one care to ask “What are you singing today Bill?”
In thinking of all of the songs that Irving Berlin wrote makes me wonder if perhaps he too was constantly plaqued with mind music throughout his lifetime.