Music says much about personality

By Clyde Davis: Columnist

During the summer between my second and third years of seminary, I was living in the single men’s dorm, remaining on campus, since one of the ways I kept the bills paid was to contract rough carpentry and painting work.

Everyone, it seemed, was on the opposite end of the theological spectrum from myself.

One day, in deep despair, I left a note on the door of John Scotland, the other “moderate” who had a room on that floor, but was not around much.

“Where are you? How am I gonna survive? These guys are driving me nuts!” Two days later, I found a response from Scotty: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run — you never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table, there’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”

Appropriately and theatrically, it was attached to an ace of spades.

The quote, of course, is from Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler,” and illustrates the way in which songs, especially popular songs, may define the moments of our lives.

Later that same year, while driving a van-load of kids through foggy night mountains to a youth group ski weekend, I heard the song “Still the Same,” a Bob Seger classic, come on the radio.

I turned to Kyla, my girl chaperone. “Ky, you know they wrote that song about my ex-girlfriend Nancy, don’t you?” I wish I had noticed she was drinking hot chocolate before I made her laugh and splutter on her white jacket.

Not all moments of our lives’ songs are humorous. As a cancer survivor, I will make sure that Keith Whitley’s “I’m No Stranger To The Rain” is played at my memorial. If you listen to the words, you’ll understand why that, and “Live Like You Were Dying” (the Bull named Fu Manchu song) by Tim McGraw, will be on the list.

“When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” has its place, but music is individual taste, right?

Sometimes, especially perhaps in summer, we seek to surround ourselves with the music of our lives. It draws out memories, both poignant and humorous. I will never hear “Wild, Wild West” (dance version) without remembering the greatest youth group that ever was: the Long’s Run Church kids of 1985-91.

Nor for that matter can I ever escape their memory when I hear “Dead Man’s Curve,” which they always dedicated to my Celica — the one I tried to park in a tree going, well, faster than I should have been.

Two little-known songs by well-known groups invariably make me cry because they were chosen by me for our wedding. “The Maker Said Take Her” (Alabama) and “Treat Her Right” (Sawyer Brown) speak volumes about how I feel as a husband. Note the use of present tense. Were I to do it over, I would add “Look At You, Girl” (Chris LeDoux).

One of the reasons I believe couples should choose carefully, and with some leeway, music for their weddings is the individuality of the soundtrack of one’s life.

As a grandfather raising his grandson, I give a good mental ear at times to “Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin. It reminds me of what order my priorities ought to be in. If there is someone small who is important in your life, give it another listen.

So what is the soundtrack of your life? E-mail me and let me know. What music expresses, or even helps define, who you are and where you have been?