My ears have a happy place.

One good thing about music…when it hits you, you feel no pain. So hit me with music…Hit me with music…(Bob Marley, Trenchtown Rock)

Music is a big part of me.

My dad’s a musician. Growing up, I fell asleep to the sound of his alto saxophone as he practiced for gigs. When he sings, my body relaxes and my heart is content. I learned about music on vinyl by playing his albums. A lot of my love for jazz comes from being surrounded by it as a child.

I got the gene, too. I’ve mentioned that I play the piano- I took 15 years of lessons. I can carry a tune and always have a song in my head. Today, it’s the song referenced above, and it got me thinking about what music means in my life.

I enjoy just about every genre of music. Pops taught me to appreciate the classics. I love the strong female voices of eras gone by- Billie, Ella, Sarah. I always turn it up when I hear Zeppelin, Clapton, Dylan, J.J. Cale, the Stones, Mr. Cash. My formative years included everything from Pearl Jam and the Black Crowes to New Order and the Smiths. Newer music continues to surprise me, and I love the innovations of Jack White, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket… the list never ends. I am lucky to be with a man who is as excited about music- the old AND the new- as I am.

But there are a handful that are, by far, my favorites. These are the happy places for my ears… and my soul. My top five, in no particular order:

Frank Sinatra. Do I even have to explain? An era of manly men and glamorous women, tuxedos and stiff cocktails. His voice is like nothing I’ve ever heard. “Luck Be a Lady” is brilliant! From the love songs to the recordings of the Rat Pack in Vegas, Old Blue Eyes makes me feel good. If only I could go back in time to see him at his prime.

Neil Young. Remember that hippie that lives inside of me? She is enamored of Neil Young. Before he was the Godfather of Grunge, he was making music that I can’t live without. Live at Massey Hall (1971) is about as good as it gets for me. He’s still ROCKING and I have a serious goal to see him play live while I still can.

The Beastie Boys. Maybe it’s the time in my life when I got into the B Boys (college)- the many memories that hearing certain songs will conjure up. Maybe it’s because they made really good music. I’m so glad I got to see them live a couple of times. My brother high-fived MCA when we went to a show in Seattle. Rest in peace, Adam Yauch.

Depeche Mode. Everyone has a band like this on their list. High school. Cassette tapes. Figuring out myself. This was the time in my life when my mother would take away my stereo instead of grounding me because it had a bigger effect. Something spoke to me with this band back then, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Some people don’t get it. But those that DO get it understand why DM makes the list for me. I’ve been able to see them play live a couple of times, too!

Bob Marley. I can get into some reggae, but can always get into Bob Marley. His message and philosophy of peace is necessary in our world. His passion for sharing that message through his music is obvious when you hear his voice.  And it makes me start to move to the music, every single time. (There’s a documentary on his life On Demand right now. Inspiring.)

There’s a line in a Beastie Boys song (Shadrach) that says there are “only twelve notes that a man can play.” It’s incredible how much music is out there from the same starting point. The list above is random and pretty varied in styles, but has one constant: the way the music of these artists makes me feel. Happy.

So hit me with music…

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