As I slice vegetables in my kitchen on yet another sterling summer day, the raucous racket of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones emanates from my sound system. "Harlem Shuffle" is wildly pulsing with the exuberance only Jag and his gang can produce.
Seconds after "Shuffle" retreats, Pink Floyd's "Us and Them" begins, bringing with it a rush of memories that nearly takes my breath away. With each note comes recollections of the early '70s when I was an unfledged teenager. In those days, music was intrinsic to life; a commodity as essential as air.
I have always loved music. In the '60s I would climb into my older sister's bed, curl up next to her with my beloved "Green Eggs and Ham" and wiggle my toes to the Beatles, Dave Clark Five and the Beach Boys. I felt very grown up sharing that space with Julie, who was eight years my senior and admirably tolerant of her adoring baby sister.
In high school, my favorite time of year was spring when the Royalton-Hartland Drama Club took to the stage for musical productions that included "Oliver," "Carousel," "South Pacific" and "Oklahoma."
At Christmastime, I felt honored to sing Handel's "Messiah" in the high school choir. Hearing that magnificent masterpiece still sends chills down my spine.
Music has the power to send me into thoughtful introspection in a time and place all my own, or to evoke a glad-to-be-alive feeling.
I can't say I have a favorite band, though I'm partial to southern and classic rock. Some songs, like Don McLean's "Vincent" -- written about artist Vincent van Gogh -- produce profound melancholy.
My heart aches when McLean sings, "And when no hope was left inside on that starry, starry night, you took your life as lovers often do. But I could have told you Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you."
On the flip side, nothing can make me feel better than Lynyrd Skynyrd's rowdy rebel rock. And Steely Dan has never written a song I didn't like. Canadian Kim Mitchell and his recollections of awkward adolescence in "Patio Lanterns" is also high on my list of favorites.
In the summer, I become a "parrot head," grooving to Jimmy Buffet's tropical tunes. All year long I can't get enough of Little Feat's prolific talents and the guitar genius of the too-soon-gone Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Then there are the better-known groups: the Eagles, Creedence Clearwater, Jethro Tull, Eric Clapton, Electric Light Orchestra, Neil Young, the "Boss" Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, particularly appealing with its haunting use of the synthesizer. And I musn't forget Steppenwolf, Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers and ZZ Top, all venerable bands of old.
Sadly, anything by the Police reminds me of the horrors of 9/1 1 because I was listening to that band on that day. As much as I'm a fan of the Police, I can no longer enjoy their music.
Don McLean's classic "American Pie" asks, "Do you believe in rock 'n roll? Can music save your mortal soul?" I believe it has saved mine -- many, many times.
Music celebrates life's ups, softens its downs and embraces the essence of creativity singular to humanity. It makes this world a better place.
Cynthia J. Wittcop of Gasport, believes music is an essential part of life.