Gettin’ Up There: Change my diaper to Motown

My first awareness of music’s magical ability to cast spells upon my feet and feelings occurred in 1957.

Only five-years old, and merrily cocooned within the living room of our post-WWII North Hollywood tract home, I repeatedly played two of my parents’ 45s on the record player — catchy tunes that made me smile and spin: Rosemary Clooney’s “Botch-A-Me” and The Ames Brothers’ “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane.”

The melodies, rhythms, palpable joy, even words I didn’t understand, they all resonated within me. How I’d dance and skip and sing. Although I barely knew my fanny from my fibulas, I knew this treat was right up there with the Good Humor Man arriving and me having a quarter in my pocket.

Throughout my years, music has been my memory siren call and melancholy muse. On a DNA level, I associate many songs with the most pivotal times of my life: Youth. Love. Adventures. Motherhood. Vitality. Heartbreak. Pensive realizations. Summer fun, etc. It remains my aural daily mega-vitamin.

On a more subdued note, I admit that like many Boomers I’m contemplating my own mortality. It comes with the territory. If my deepest wish comes true though, I shall peacefully drop off as an 80-something, apron-wearing Granny who just removed her last tray of baked sweets from the oven. My snickerdoodles will be done, and so will I.

Appropriately, I’ll have been listening to my beloved Moody Blues singing “Go Now.” 

Knowing that Murphy’s Law and other maladies often cause far less easy passages, I also realize that I may wind up in a skilled nursing facility. Meh.

Yes, I understand that for many people they are necessary 24/7 care centers. And some aren’t even awful. 

Speaking for myself, though, and my g-g-g-g-generation, if we do land in nursing homes, they’d better be enlightened ones that play our kind of music — those endorphin-eliciting selections from the songbooks of our lives.

None of that overhead “Strangers in the Night” instrumental doodoo. I’m talking original recordings from the Four Tops, Doors, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Kinks, Stones, Marvin Gaye, Beatles, Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Beau Brummels, Byrds, Joanie Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, Beach Boys, Elvis, Simon and Garfunkel, Earth, Wind and Fire, Cream, Miles Davis, Santana, Carly Simon, Tom Petty, and legions more. 

Some folks may have forgotten their address or what they just ate for dinner, but they probably haven’t lost their golden oldie synapses. 

Like acoustic mood enhancers, music does wonders for the brain and body. Research shows it can reduce anxiety, pain, and blood pressure, brighten one’s outlook, and boost alertness, memory and sleep quality.

These positive effects can also help people afflicted by dementia/Alzheimer’s, and speed recovery of stroke patients. That’s one “efficacious” drug with amazing side effects. 

If the professionals can’t restore us to our better days, at least help summon our most tender, powerful, and meaningful memories. 

BTW: Should the nursing home admins really want to be good to me, throw in some Rosemary Clooney and Ames Brothers.  I may not have the moves by then, but the five-year-old will gladly come out to play. 

Diana Sevanian is a retired registered nurse and longtime Signal features writer and columnist.

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