Sound Track of My Life

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Welcome to today’s totally self-indulgent blog. Should I become uber famous and “they” make a movie of my life, I want to make sure “they” get the songs right. Here goes–sixteen songs that define my life.

My Tweenage Years

1. Convoy by C.W. McCall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gI5eT4UmyFY
CB radios were the craze during my adolescent years, and my neighbor and I spent our afternoons making up new lyrics. He sang. I played guitar. It was just a totally stupid thing to do. Surprisingly, a few kids today have heard of the song because their parents still play it. One of my newspaper kids put it on our classroom iTunes playlist last year.

2. Chevy Van by Sammy Johns  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiEIToOWr64
Remember 45’s? I would put on a stack and turn up the volume then sit and listen on my front porch swing. By far, this song was the most provocative, scandalous song of them all. But it was my favorite. I didn’t have a clue what the song was about. There was also a little boy I liked whose parents owned a Chevy van. He lived across town  near what used to be Dairy Queen. Sometimes his parents would drive down my street, and I always remember looking for his van.

3. The Joker by The Steve Miller Band http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmVusVh4TRQ
Quite possibly, the best song EVER. I think I wore out the album. I spent a lot of time alone, listening to this song, picking the needle up on my record player, starting it over and over and over again. It was so nice decades later to go to a Steve Miller show and to have Steve Miller himself put his guitar pick in my hand. I did a lot of  dreaming to that song.

My Teen Years

5. Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9TGj2jrJk8
Best birthday present during my teen years? An eight-track tape of Van Halen’s Women and Children First, hand-delivered by a couple of Thieves. Afterwords? Snow falling, a ride home in a shop-painted pick up, and a guitar lesson of Stairway to Heaven. A defining moment.

6. Love Hurts by Nazareth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZhNW_jKrQY
This song brings back memories of The Barn, a backdrop, and a couple of broken hearts. Ah, love hurts.

7. She’s So Cold by the Rolling Stones http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrx_55SgwAY
One of the best decisions I ever made as a high school student? Becoming a band geek. When I think of this song, I think about my sisters on the flag corps and a group of incorrigible drummers. I hear us singing this song at the top of our voices and see us trudging out the door to afternoon practices, and remember wreaking havoc on a very young, very kind (and very forgiving) band director who changed my life by opening my door to music.

The College Years

8. The Stroke by Billy Squier http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS-oyLm-_fg
I HATED my college years—the music, the clothing styles. I have nothing good to say about this time except for one moment. My friends and I were in B&L Pizza, The place was crowded, and there were these guys there who were ina typical unknown garage band. The lead singer lept up on a table and sang along with the music. I don’t remember the dude’s name, but I remember his very eighty-ish white jacket and white gangster-type hat. I’m sure the moment didn’t happen like I remember it, but the moment was like a music video.

9. Rock You Like a Hurricane by The Scorpions http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxdmw4tJJ1Y
I do not know why my roommate and I liked The Scorpions. It was a short-lived infatuation, but I can’t think of college without thinking of Domino’s pizza, braided headbands, leg warmers, and The Scorpions.

10. Celebration of the Lizard King by Jim Morrison http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMDYRNUV7o4
Self confession –I spent a lot of time in my door room listening to Jim Morrison’s Lizard King. Always the loner, I was fascinated by what made Morrison tick, so I tried to psycho-analyze him through his music.

The CCM Music Journalist Days

11. Cross of Gold by Michael W. Smith http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1CI8P1MHS0
When the church convinced me secular music was evil, I shut the door, but then this thing called contemporary Christian music appeared on the scene. Michael W. Smith was at the forefront. I was walking down a Nashville street, and I saw this man who looked me square in the eye and smiled. I just KNEW it was Smitty. Whether it was or wasn’t, the blip in time changed my life. I dove  headfirst into CCM and started writing for magazines. I met everyone and anyone associated with the business and probably interviewed almost all of the artists from the 90s. But Michael W. Smith was my hands down favorite. His love for teens changed my heart. I admired him so much, I named my younger son after him.

12. This Is Not My Home – Three Crosses http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzkfZziiZqM
Serendipity, my favorite word, comes to play here. I went to a bookstore with a meet and greet because the store was giving away tickets to a MWS concert. We won! My son had his picture made with the lead singer of Three Crosses. I bought the CD and absolutely FELL IN LOVE with the music. The vocals were/ are IT, everything I like in music. As for the serendipity part of the story, my son now frequently works with the lead singer. I’m still the geeky fan.

13. Black Bird by Third Day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmZ38HehKxE
Other than Three Crosses, I had never heard a CCM artist sing songs the way I like them, i.e. a bluesy rock style. Third Day introduced me to the Black Crowes. As I mentioned, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting just about every 90s CCM artist, but Third Day was a special treat. Even though I don’t listen to CCM much anymore, I will forever be a Third Day fan.

My Journey to the Crossroads of Rock and Blues

14. Crossfire by Stevie Ray Vaughan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p77e2_0fUyo
When I finally realized that God would not send me to Hell for listening to mainstream music, I finally realized my true passion was The Blues. My all-time favorite is SRV. I think Stevie had a gentle spirit with a troubled soul. But he found his way back to God. I will meet him someday.

15. Voodoo Chile (blues version) by Jimi Hendrix http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C6wSGcFEmA
Another troubled soul. Another life lost too soon. I can’t tell you why I like the blues, but I can show you—Jimi Hendrix. Mystery. Imagination. Fodder for my creative writing.

16. Thorn in My Pride by The Black Crowes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmWtBTX8rhc
Some of you wouldn’t put this song in the blues category, but it is my all-time FAVORITE song. I melt.

P.S. Anyone who knows me well, may notice I left out one very important artist–Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I’m still waiting on Steven’s personal visit and phone call. I wouldn’t call myself desperate, but….take a look at this video and, you’ll see how desperate a teacher can be. No students were harmed physically (can’t guarantee emotionally) in the making of this video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D_n6nTn1AU

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Suppose someone stumbled across your diary and decided to make a movie about your life. Create a soundtrack for the movie of your life. Be sure to comment on WHY these songs mean something to YOU. And share! We all love comments on our blogs. Comments remind us SOMEONE is reading.

FINAL THOUGHTS

BBK

Blame it on my blood

I have always written, but I didn’t know how much I wanted to be a writer until I was already out of college and working as a teacher. There were signs.

My dad worked as a printer and brought home all sorts of scrap paper and cardstock, just what I needed to make my own paper dolls. I can still smell the ink of the permanent marker, and I remember winters, sitting in our kitchen floor in front of the wall heater cutting and coloring. But sometimes I cut my characters from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue and created a village on the braided rug in our living room. I guess my parents were glad there was just one of me. I’m sure I made quite a mess.

When I hit third, fourth, or fifth grade, I graduated to writing and illustrating my own stories. I still have them—in my own squiggly handwriting and crayon and Magic Markers. They’re held together in cardstock folders with prongs. I hope my boys will care enough to pass on these little books to children someday. I wish I could have had a peek into my grandparents’ lives as children. What a treasure that would be!

On a side note, I have hint where my interests came from. The family of my Great Grandmother Smoot came here from Ireland (which probably explains why I’m so crazy about anything Irish). But on my grandfather’s side, my Great Grandmother Bell came from Denmark. She was only sixteen when she arrived in New York City. She played the guitar just like me. And, if I have the story right, her brother, my Great Uncle Will Hansen played the accordion and wrote poetry. (I hear copies of these poem still exist. I wish I could make a photocopy of them.)

My father remembers him putting on a variety show with his singing and dancing. I think they lived on a big farm in the Fredonia area for much of their lives. He and his brother Chris were multi-talented, expert craftsmen who made their own furniture, even their own coffins.

When I used to babysit my younger cousins, I coerced them into creating a newspaper, The Bell Family Times. Despite my threats, I think all three of them turned out pretty normal, well, except for the younger one, James. He’s a songwriter now—and a pretty good one at that. If he ever writes a number one hit, he’ll have to give me a cut of his royalties. (I was his high school English teacher too. You can ask him how many times he failed my class. The number changes with his mood. So it is with the Bells’ and their storytelling. They tend to exaggerate.)

By the time I made it to high school, I had turned into the extremely shy hopeless romantic I am today. Like James I wrote songs too, but these were really bad songs. I played a horrible guitar so cheaply made that I could barely push the strings down to fret the chords. I don’t remember showing these songs to anyone except one friend. But when all members of our class prepared to go their separate ways before graduation, I remember sending one of these songs off with two of my best friends, hoping it might inspire them to find their dreams in the music industry.

During my first years of college, I was a recording industry management (RIM) major, and I worked for the head of the department. I actually got up enough nerve to show these songs to him, and he was the first person to tell me about hooks and choruses and bridges and syllable counts—all the things my songs were lacking. I wish I had listened, but life got in the way, and I couldn’t tell you whatever happened to those songs.

If it weren’t for my English professor Charles Wolfe, I doubt I would have ever taken my writing seriously. I turned in an assignment for his folklore class, and he liked it so much he asked if he could publish it in the Tennessee Folklore Bulletin. It even made the cover. I always admired Dr. Wolfe. Years later, after I had been several articles published in contemporary Christian music magazines, I contacted him and asked him how I might write about nonfiction about the Christian music industry. He was an expert in his field regarding country music and was the author of numerous books.

He sent me a letter with a long list of contacts and lots of encouragement. The next thing I knew Vanderbilt University was sending me info about how to have my not yet written book published through their school. I never followed up on that interest. Again, life got in the way. But ironically, years later my work was published through the University of Tennessee. I would have never know if I hadn’t done an Internet search of my name and found that my story had been chosen for A Tennessee Folklore Sampler (2009).

People often ask me how I began writing for magazines. The answer is fairly simple. I was too naïve to think I couldn’t, so I sent clips, and several magazines responded by giving me assignments.  But first I wrote without pay for anyone who was willing to publish me. I have endless gratitude for Rebekah Hurst, who published The Parent Paper. She gave me a spot for my column, and from there on the writing bug bit and wouldn’t let go. Today I’m a frequent contributor to The Living Light News in Alberta, Edmonton. I have made just enough money to pay for my gas and writing conferences, but it’s been well worth every penny.

Contemporary Christian music isn’t what it used to be, so when I write music articles today I write about people who make their living in the general entertainment market. I’ve been blessed to chat with Smokey Robinson, Tony Orlando, Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Clay Walker, heavy weight boxing champion Chris Byrd, Sting (the wrestler), and many others. They tell me stories of how God has changed their lives. I don’t write for the New York Times or People magazine, but I am still so grateful that God chose me to pass on these stories. He could have chosen someone else.

Some people write for therapeutic reasons; some people write for money. I write because I want to make a difference in other people’s lives—and because it’s a form of safe adventure for me. Okay, I’ll admit it. I like the adrenaline rush. But could you imagine what I’d be like in a real mystery or adventure? I guess I’m more like Scooby and Shaggy than I’d like to admit. My children get this trait from me. They brag about venturing off someday to find adventure foreign lands, but then they freak out when we do donuts in the Walmart parking lot after a big snow. By the way, is that illegal?

Occasionally, I do write for myself. I keep a book of blessings hidden away where I work. I never ever write about anything bad. Sometimes I write about my students; sometimes I write about my friends or my family. Sometimes I write about strangers. No one ever sees this writing except for me and God. But on those days when everything seems to go wrong, I take out my book and literally count my blessings and name them one by one.

Friday is New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow after midnight we have a brand new year to follow our dreams. Who are you? What are your roots? Is writing in your blood? Then write. Put away the excuses. We may not write a bestseller, but we can write for local publications, our churches, our children, ourselves.

For 2011, I challenge you to take a leap of faith and to see where your writing takes you. What’s your dream?

But don’t keep it hidden. Tell somebody. You never know who might help you make it happen if only they knew. Let’s make 2011 a year of bold adventure.

Special note: Thanks to all of you who have taken time to read my blog, to offer a word of encouragement, to make me laugh, to inspire me. You can bet you’ve got a special place in my book of blessings. I wish you a Happy New Year.