Opinion — Generational mixtapes


Molly Birch/NW

MELODIOUS MEMORIES – This is me on my fourth birthday, proudly holding one of my most iconic gifts. This plastic pink Barbie guitar played a set of preloaded songs, the most memorable of which was “What a Girl Wants” by Christina Aguilera. I remember singing along to all the songs, citing every word at four. My life is riddled with memories set to song, thanks to my family members sharing their passion for music.

Molly Birch

Dad told me a story once, though I have no real clue of its truth. 

According to the countless times I have heard this story, Dad often played music when I was a newborn at home. Safe in my bouncer, car seat or whatever acceptable receptacle I was in then, I would doze and coo, perfectly content with being included. As one classic headbanger blared on after another, I stayed snug and still until Big & Rich entered stage right. Even if this story is not true, those simple, utterly nonsensical syllables “dumdededum, dededumdededum, dedaadaaaaa” will forever warm my heart. 

The instantly recognizable triumphant twanging of “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” filled the room, and a chorus of giggles was shared between father and daughter. Then, suddenly, the bass hit, and my moderately moldable newborn head started rocking up and down in time with the scratching guitar and thudding kick drum. 

“I have never seen a baby do that,” I recall him marveling when he retold the story for the umpteenth time. 

I have always had a strange connection to music. My parents rolled their eyes when I yelled, “Don’t skip that one! It’s my favorite!” at every song in the cue. I will hear a song I have not heard in years yet recite nearly every word. Sometimes, music stirs emotions in me more than the world does. Even as a child, I escaped in the looping playlist on my iPod Shuffle. It was me, that blue square inch of recyclable aluminum and a pair of ragged earbuds battling against the darkness. 

You are probably thinking, “It’s not that deep, Molls, it’s just ‘Never Say Never’ by Justin Bieber featuring Jaden Smith. What’s the big deal?” Well, reader, nine-year-old me might have a few choice words to mumble in your general direction, however, I will digress. I will say it is not just “Never Say Never” by Justin Bieber featuring Jaden Smith. It will never be just “Never Say Never” by Justin Bieber featuring Jaden Smith.

My music taste is rightfully eclectic. I was exposed to many genres throughout my life from family and friends. My parents and grandparents, however, are the most influential characters in my music taste. 

Mom’s parents are farmers, hard-working people of the land who thrived on country music. We lived with them for a few years after my parents separated. Johnny, George, Dolly, Willy and other golden greats blared on Grandma Cindy’s black plastic CD player. Papa Bill played a trusty country station on the tractor radio. 

I remember listening to music with Mom in the car the most, usually on our merry way to visit Grandma Cindy and Papa Bill. I remember rocking to a random collection of CDs before Spotify existed. “Pure Disco 2,” “Shrek: Music from the Original Motion Picture” and “Radio Disney Jams 12,” were among our favorites. That hour to and from Mom’s hometown brimmed with raucous laughter and scream-singing. 

Dad’s parents are very different from Mom’s. Papa Rich, or ‘Papapa’ as we lovingly called him, loaded my iPod shuffle with a whiplash-inducing mix of Taylor Swift, Trace Adkins, ABBA and The Monkees, among others. After Dad bought me my first record player, they took me to record shows and estate sales, where Grandma introduced me to Carole King and added even more ABBA to my collection. 

Based on Dad’s current music taste, I would safely load 2003 Jeff’s cue with death metal, 90s country and what I affectionately refer to as “hockey game music.” 

Most of the pleasant memories I still retain from childhood, especially those with Dad, are set to some catchy ditty. I remember jamming to “Smoke a Little Smoke” by Eric Church and “Hillbilly Bone” by Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins. Occasionally, Journey, Bon Jovi and Queen would make their appearances. 

Indulge me while I regale a final story of my formative years. Picture a tiny silver Mazda 6 with a six-foot-three man wedged into the low-hanging driver seat with a pair of gangly, wild-haired little girls in the back. Dad drummed on the steering wheel with his fingers, steering the car with his leg. “Wash it All Away” by Five Finger Death Punch bumped on the radio, rattling the dash and my brains. I sang proudly with the verses, my sister chiming in on the pre-chorus “I HATE IT!!” with her best death metal scream. 

It was a joy. I will never forget it. 

Though I am not the only person in the world with this kind of soundtrack childhood, my musical roots run deep. Music has the omnipotent power to connect humans across nations, languages and generations. It is funny to think about, but I am who I am because of who my parents and grandparents are. Not only are we connected by blood, but we are tied together by countless memories set to catchy melodies. I could not be more grateful for the crazy generational mixtape we share.

Editor’s Note: The North Wind is committed to offering a free and open public forum of ideas, publishing a wide range of viewpoints to accurately represent the NMU student body. This is a staff column, written by an employee of the North Wind. As such, it expresses the personal opinions of the individual writer, and does not necessarily reflect the position of the North Wind Editorial Board.