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The soundtrack of my life

I became a fan of music in 1964, the same year the Beatles led the British Invasion of the United States. But it wasn’t John, Paul, George and Ringo that caught my attention; it was the Dave Clark Five. The first album I ever bought was their Greatest Hits compilation, released in 1966. It cost me $3, every penny of what I earned mowing two lawns. It was worth every bit of it.
My parents, realizing how much music meant to me, soon took me to my first concert at the Waikiki Shell in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1969. Fat Mattress played a few songs as the opening band before turning the stage over to someone whom I instantly recognized as what had to be the greatest guitarist of all time: Jimi Hendrix. From the opening song, ‘Johnny B. Goode’ to the encore ‘Purple Haze,’ I sat on our family blanket totally mesmerized by what was happening. Besides developing a fascination with Hendrix that warm night in May, I also developed a love for seeing and hearing music performed live in concert, the way God intended it to be.
We only lived on the island of Oahu for another year or so, but before we left I saw several other prominent artists in their prime, including the Doors, Steppenwolf, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Iron Butterfly, who performed their concert-worthy 35-minute version of ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,’ not the short 17-minute version heard on satellite radio today.
We moved to Atlantic Beach, Florida in 1970 where I became best friends with Jeff, who loved rock and roll music about as much as I did. Over the next couple of years the two of us plastered ourselves up against the stage at the Jacksonville Coliseum to see our favorite groups: Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, and Grand Funk Railroad instantly come to mind. When I started to date Cindy in 1973 she was, let’s say a ‘novice’ fan of music but it didn’t take long before she was sharing my love for it.
Music has always been a big part of our lives together. Chicago’s ‘Beginnings’ was and always has been ‘our song.’ I introduced Cindy to Led Zeppelin; she introduced the Allman Brothers to me. While she never completely understood my fascination with Alice Cooper, I did the same for hers with Davey Jones. But other than that we were pretty much on the same song sheet.
Every year and every major moment of our lives seems to be connected with a song. For our anniversary in 2004 I recorded all of those special songs and gave her a compilation of ‘The Soundtrack of Our Lives – So Far…’ It took 18 hour-long CDs to record all of them and included everything from the Allman Brothers ‘Eat a Peach’ album (her favorite) to Chicago (they are responsible for many of ‘our songs’) to Donna Summer (from our disco dancing days in college) to Led Zeppelin (our mutual choice for best band ever).
We’ve been avid concertgoers since we first met. Some of the more memorable we’ve been fortunate to attend include Paul McCartney in Atlanta in 2005, Neil Young at Red Rocks in 2015, and the amazing lineup of six legendary acts (Rolling Stones, The Who, et al) at Desert Trip in Indio, California in 2016.
We’re also seeing more and more of the bands we first saw for the first time almost 50 years ago. Some of the bands still have many of the original members, while the only thing others share with the original band is the name. Regardless, when I hear them play I can’t help but get a little choked up knowing it might be the last time I ever get to hear their music performed live.
I’m not sure exactly how to describe that feeling I get. Whether the original band, a tribute band, or a band simply performs a particular song as a cover, it always has the same effect on me. Occasionally I’ll even get that feeling when I hear certain songs on the radio. We’ve all heard ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ so many times that we pretty much take it for granted we’ll be hearing it again soon, but what if that wasn’t the case? Freddy Mercury probably imagined he’d be strutting in front of a live audience to this very day, but any thoughts of that were suddenly and tragically cut short in 1991.
The same can be said about many more of the finest musicians of my generation. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek (Doors), Duane Allman, Harry Chapin, David Byron (fantastic vocalist of Uriah Heep), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Roger Entwistle and Keith Moon (the Who), Tom Petty, Donna Summer, Prince, Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), Leon Russell, Glenn Frey (Eagles), David Bowie, Maurice White (Earth, Wind and Fire), Gary Richrath (REO Speedwagon), Alvin Lee (Ten Years After), Johnny Winter, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker (Cream) Marty Balin (Jefferson Airplane), Joe Cocker, Eddie Money, and two of the Beatles, John Lennon and George Harrison. While these phenomenal and talented artists are no longer with us, they left us all with the gift of their music. It all is part of the soundtracks of our lives, regardless of how young or old we happen to be.
The other part of the explanation is because I know there’s no guarantee I’ll be here tomorrow. (Lord, please let me find the entire Led Zeppelin catalog on the soundtrack in Heaven when my time is up.) At this point in my life I want to spend my time listening to the very best; I don’t want to waste a second listening to anything less.
All that being said, if you find yourself riding in the car with me you there are two things you need to know:
• If a Barry White (RIP) song comes on the radio there is to be absolutely NO TALKING.
• I will change stations on the radio quite often. There is no way I’m leaving this planet with ‘Muskrat Love’ being the last song I ever listen to.
One last thing: Lord, please don’t let there be any Captain and Tennille on the Eternal Soundtrack in the Sky.

Scott Ludwig lives, runs, and writes in Senoia.  His latest book, “Southern Charm: Columns from a small town Georgia newspaper,” as well as the rest of his books, can be found on his author page on Amazon. He can be reached at magicludwig1@gmail.com.

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