Moments Of Unexpected Nostalgia

Photo by Anton H from Pexels

My dad and I were just talking about good gospel music. Not the droning melodic hymns we mindless sang in church every week. The same eight songs cycled through the rotation. Do all churches do that? Play the same songs week after week until the lyrics don’t sound like words anymore.

Which was probably a good thing for me. I would listen to the words and ask silly. Then I would get the look. Narrowed eyes, disappearing lips, and this gagging tsk followed by a shake of the head. I was told, with an exasperated sigh, that I shouldn’t take it so literally. Instead, let the imagery move me closer to the spirit.

Like, uh, a ghost or something? I’m too young to go towards the light! Why are you throwing your hands up into the air? Hey, come back. I have more questions about these hymns.

Like, um, if we’re on our way to heaven, but we won’t be moved. How are we getting there? Isn’t movement implied? I’m on my way! But I’m gonna stay right here, unmoved. That never made sense to me. Oh, and don’t get me started on the deer panting for water. Poor thing, let it have a drink or are we proponents of animal cruelty? I’m not okay with that.

They might’ve been right. I was a precocious child.

But I never asked silly questions about the good stuff. The kind of music that shoots electricity through your body and gets your ass out of that seat. Sure, having rhythm is cool, but when you feel the music in your soul, your body moves of its own accord. There’s no holding back. You couldn’t if you tried. There’s something about the good stuff that gets the feet tapping, heart-pounding, and puts a smile on the face.

I know religious overtones aren’t for everyone but, for me, good music is good music. I don’t have to be into a spiritual practice to appreciate talent, enjoy the vibe, or get into a groove. Is there anything better than coming together and listening to good music? I don’t care were the music is playing. If it’s good? I wanna hear it.

If there’s one thing that I wish I could do or learn? I wish I could sing or play an instrument. I played the trumpet in elementary school for a couple of years, but I wasn’t good at it. I made a noise that occasionally resembled music, but I never possessed any significant talent. Though, I think my parents deserve a medal for letting me give it a try. They had to listen to me practise the horn every day.

Not all hero’s wear capes. Some of them let their kids join the band, and play obnoxiously loud instruments.

I wish I had the musical gene, but alas, I’ll have to settle for listening to those of you who have the gift. I’m very good at appreciating the work of others, and when you put your talent out there? I’m going to cheer you on. It will be enthusiastic and rhythmically uncoordinated. 

If music is a love language, then that’s mine. Very few things speak to me as profoundly as a good song. It’s the one of the few thing that fills my tank when I’m running on E. When I’m feeling down and out? When my mind is too noisy, and my heart is too heavy? I put on my headphones, turn up the volume, and play some good tunes.

The right song, at the right time, turns off my brain, and gives me a break. It’s a time out, a deep breath, and a moment of reprieve when my mental health is under assault. I don’t care what I’m listening to as long as it drowns out the noise and makes my feet move. 

Actually, correction, there are a few genres that I just can’t listen to, and I’m sorry if they’re your favourites. Heavy metal and twangy country music. I just can’t. It physically hurts. If you love it? Get down to it, my friend. Let it move through you and recharge your soul. If you could put some headphones on, that would be lovely. 

Other than that? I’ll listen to anything. I was raised listening to all kinds of music. Mostly, we listening to the oldies. The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations…Why can’t I think of anyone else? Oh, my personal favourite was the Beach Boys. Little Blue Poop was my jam!

Yes, I know it’s Little Deuce Coupe, but my young ears heard something else. Now, I can’t sing it any other way. Little blue poop, you don’t know what I got. A doctor’s appointment, I hope. Go on, laugh at me. I can take it.

Good music can transport us back to a time in our lives when we were our happiest. Those carefree summer days, running through the woods and building forts under a canopy of trees. Swimming in the lake, looking for lost treasure, and trying to find definitive proof that the Ogopogo is real.

The Ogopogo is the Canadian version of the Loch Ness Monster. It’s not a fairytale. I’ve seen photos, and there’s no way they’re faked. Why would someone do something like that? It has to be real! And I spent my childhood summers trying to find proof, but it’s a slippery, sneaky monster. Just like the little blue poop? Ah, memories.

Great music carries nostalgia on its hefty bars, and it’s timeless. The other day I heard the legendary Diahann Carroll sing Ain’t Nobody’s Business, and I got the shivers. When that song was written, I was several decades away from being a twinkle in my parents’ eyes. My parents weren’t twinkling yet. It was first released in the 1920s. My grandparents were barely old enough to listen to it.

Still, listening to it triggered this feeling of wistful sentimentality for a lost moment and a forgotten lifetime. A life I never lived, and one that was, from what I’ve read, rife with significant challenges. If I had been born back then? Given my chronic illnesses and everything that comes with it. Well, I don’t think I would’ve lived long enough to enjoy the dance.

But when that song came on, I closed my eyes, and I was transported back in time. I landed in an idyllic version of the past that didn’t represent reality for most, I’m sure. A home out in the country, and carts drawn by horses. Occasionally a car would pass on the left. The old horn would beep, the exhaust would cough, and a cloud of dust would whip into a frenzy.

It’s a slower life and, by today’s standards, a lazier one. Things in this dream world feel simpler, and there’s a lot less noise. Get up, tend to your business, then sit on your porch and watch the sunset. What happens after that? Well, as the song says, it ain’t nobody’s business but your own.

That’s what really great music does, isn’t it? It doesn’t just move your feet or get your body to twist in strange ways. It transports your soul to a different time so you can live a different life for a few minutes. And it’s not just any life. It’s the perfect version, in an ideal world, where everything is just groovy.

Groovy? Because that’s a word people still say. I’m bringing it back! It’s groovy, baby. That’s how it’s used, right? Austin Powers is my only reference

Nostalgia doesn’t have to be somber or daydreamy. Sometimes it can be funny and make you giggle. This morning, when my dad and I were talking about gospel music? It triggered this memory that made me laugh. It was a collision of old-school tunes and a real-life encounter with a generational icon. 

I think it was my first brush with this absurd thing we call celebrity. It is a bizarre concept, isn’t it? Fawning over someone because they can sing, dance, act, play sports, or they have a family name. It’s weird, right?

This ordinary person who, when we wipe away the tinsel, is just like us.They eat, sleep, and poop blue just like we do. Except, they are well known and quite possibly, incredibly wealthy. Now? Oo la la. We rush to take pictures and get an autograph. It’s such an odd practice. Also, all of the autographs I’ve collected are in a box in my storage unit. I’ve never looked at them more than twice.

Yes, I’ve fawned, giggled, and awkwardly asked them to sign something. I’ve been star-struck a time or two. As silly as I find this whole notion, I still fall prey to its seductive power. I’m a weak, frail, and easily bemused person.

But my very first encounter was amusing, and I didn’t realize that this person was incredibly famous. Well, he was at the time and certainly more so when it came to my parents. Still, looking back, it was kinda neat in a groovy sorta way.

I was about 10 years old, and I was sitting in church with my mom. Three men walked in and sat down in front of us. Two of them were huge, built like solid concrete, and the third was kind of small, almost frail in comparison. The large men wore black suits, white shirts, and black ties. Their hair was cut short in a military-style buzzcut. They were very serious, and their heads were on a swivel.

The small man sat between them, but he stood out. He wore a dark purple suit jacket with black pants. His curly hair flowed past his shoulders and stood high on his head. If I remember correctly, he was wearing makeup which wasn’t something we saw a lot back then.

How old did that last sentence make me sound? 

This was a very conservative church that wasn’t open to “alternative lifestyles.” It was a polite way to say…Well, you can use your imagination because I won’t dignify it by saying the words. Given that mindset, when someone walked in wearing a purple suit, eyeliner, and some lipstick? People would make sure everyone else saw it too.

The organ came to life, and we were ordered to stand for the first hymn. At first, I just mouthed the words while squirrelling away my precocious questions. I had no reason to think that this service would be any different than the hundred before. Except, the man in the purple suit started singing, and he found soul in a song that had become robotic.

He could sing! Like from his toes and up his spine, kinda singing. His voice made me shiver and smile. If he wanted to? He could sing professionally. And that’s exactly what I said out loud and loud enough for him to hear. The man turned, gave me a big grin, and thanked me for the compliment.

After the service, he thanked me again and said goodbye to my mom. He left with his pals, and my mom laughed as she sat down next to me. With some amusement, she let me know that I just told Little Richard he should sing professionally. If you don’t know who that is? Don’t worry, I didn’t either, but then we went home, and my parents found some of his music.

The man was a legend of rock and roll, rhythm and blues, gospel. He became famous in the late 1940s, and he had a massive influence on music right up until his death last year. He wasn’t just a singer. He was a world-class performer.

And I told the man he could sing. Someone else asked him if he wanted to join the choir so, I was in good company. I can’t stop laughing at myself. It’s a moment of silly nostalgia on the heels of a different kind of wistfulness, and they both make me smile.

That’s why I love good music so much. It unlocks the many shades of nostalgia. It has the power to manipulate time, wake up a tired body, and silence an overactive mind. It gives me a moment of peace, reflection, and humour. It’s a break from reality while also grounding me in the moment. 


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