She Bop

Like most kids (my experiences with my own validate the statement I’m about to make), I discovered popular music – you know, the stuff they play on the radio and used to sell on things called albums and cassettes – when I was about 12 or 13.  Coinicidentally, my awareness of something called “Top 40” coincided with the advent of the music video. In fact, many cultural dissections (I’m too lazy to look up any specific ones right now) point to that period of the early to mid-80’s as having some kind of significance where music was concerned.  It was much, much easier for our generation to see the artists, who they were and what they looked like in action, without ever having to go anywhere near a concert stage. Just turn on the TV, and voila! There they were.

In the winter of 1984/1985 I was a little more off-track than your average teenager (though not nearly as bad as some), physically, emotionally and mentally in a place I didn’t want to be. One of my favourite ways to “escape” was to wait until everyone else was out of the house, blast the music as loud as I could and sing and dance along with albums that have since become iconic in music history. Purple Rain. Madonna’s Like a Virgin. The Footloose soundtrack.

My other favourite way was to put my Walkman headphones on, loud, and annoy the hell out of everyone around me by singing to music they couldn’t hear.

Then I got a little older, and listened to the music of the crowd I was running with. It was good, but it wasn’t as much fun. And it wasn’t as loud, most of the time.

And then I got a little older still, and started having babies, and who can have loud music in a house where there are babies?

And then I got even older, and had my very own radio in the car, but the people that are riding with me don’t always share my tastes, so cranking the volume isn’t received very well.

But when I’m alone in the car, and a song comes on – one from then, or one from now – that I’m particularly fond of, I turn up the dial as high as it will go in the minivan, and I sing my heart out. I wonder what all those other drivers must think, seeing this middle-aged (there, I said it) lady, in her nine-year-old Caravan, drumming on the steering wheel, crooning her heart out. It’s probably a ridiculous sight.

Sometimes, a kid is with me, and they’re open to my nuttiness, and they sing along too, and I cast my eyes sideways to share a smile with the shotgun-rider. And just for that moment, I feel – at least a little bit – like a thirteen year old kid again. Except now, the music’s a celebration, not an escape. I’m exactly where I want to be. And I can only hope that they’ll keep singing as they struggle to find their own place in the world.

It helps.


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