Power of Music – 5 Songs of Nostalgia




The above picture sits on my desk at school.  It’s a picture of me, in my first year teaching, at a small school in Washington, DC back in 1995.  I recently caught myself staring at the picture reminiscing on “the good ‘ole days.”  In the background of my thoughts, the song, Waterfalls by TLC was playing.  The reason – Yolanda, Chelsea, and Bianca, pictured above, used to sing this song day in and day out while rehearsing a choreographed dance routine.  Each day at recess and every day during our after-school program you could witness the young versions of Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes dancing and singing their song.  I specifically remember this picture being taken.  I was honored when they asked me to be a background dancer for their group (I tried out to sing, but Yolanda said my voice was too manly).  With Waterfalls softly playing from a small boom box, we just finished our number when one of my colleagues snapped a picture of us in our finishing pose.

For me, music is extremely powerful.  It can set my mood based on its melody and/or lyrics.  It used to “fire me up” before a big game.  Every night as a young teen, I’d turn on my radio alarm clock to listen to K104 out of Poughkeepsie, NY to help put me to sleep.  I use it professionally to motivate my students in PE.  Every once in a while I’ll hear a song on the radio that will not only remind me of something but will take me back to a time in my life, much like the above example.  It starts with this strange “fuzzy” feeling in my stomach.  Then, in a flash, I’m transported back in time to a very specific, usually minor event.  It’s strange to me how only certain songs have this effect every time I hear them.

Here are a few more of the songs that have this magical power over me, with a vivid description of a time and place I heard the song.

Although Dream Weaver, by one of the original “one-hit wonders” Gary Wright, was released in 1972, the song takes me back to the summer of 1978.  In the back of my parents’ 1978 Buick Opel, we were driving to Kingston, NY on our weekly shopping excursion.

1978 Buick Opel

As my dad pulled into a parking deck, and Dream Weaver was fading into the next song, I reached back for my crayons which were placed, by me, in the back window.  Uh oh, how do I tell my dad there was a liquid rainbow dripping down the vinyl interior of his car?  Not good!

The year is 1981.  My little league team just finished winning our league championship.  To celebrate my parents took us to the Stissing House, an Italian restaurant, in my small hometown of Pine Plains, NY.  My brother and I were obsessed with the full-sized jukebox that was loaded with songs from every genre.  Our usual play was Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin.  However, this night we would play It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me by Billy Joel.  I still love that song and I miss “pizza nights” at Stissing House with my family.

November 1984.  I was home from school, battling seasonal asthma.  I was resting on the couch trying to watch a riveting episode of the Phil Donahue show when I heard two dreaded sounds.  The first was the Electrolux vacuum cleaner being dragged into the kitchen followed by the crackling of our Panasonic record player speakers.  My viewing pleasure was about to be rivaled by my mom vacuuming while blaring Barry Manilow’s Copacabana.  Why do I remember that?

December 1986.  I just wasn’t cool in high school.  I was respected for my athleticism but definitely not cool.  Case and point, I’d go to the free library at night to do homework.  “Homework would inevitably lead me to the library’s only computer to play Breakout.


On one such occasion, my friend Tommy D entered the library with a Sony Walkman maxed out.  As I was feverishly working the left and right arrows on the keyboard, I heard him much before I saw him.  The usual silence of the library was held hostage to Mike D, MCA, and Kind Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys.

Without pulling the orange foam from his ears and neglecting to turn the volume down, Tommy D, in an awkwardly loud tone said, “You’ve got to hear this new group…”  I remember him holding up the tape cover for License to Ill.  Turns out, I loved it!

January 1993 – Enter Grunge.  I arrived in Washington, DC to begin my final two years of college at the George Washington University.  After my parents dropped me off, I headed up to my dorm for the first time.  I was a nervous wreck.  My new roommates weren’t back from their winter break yet and I needed something to settle my nerves.  Along the back wall, there was a small Emerson stereo system.  Sitting on top was the Nevermind CD by Nirvana.  I slipped in the CD, sat on the end of a bed, closed my eyes, and began listening to Smells Like Teen Spirt.  Nothing like a good dose of Nirvana to help settle my nerves and a slight case of homesickness.  Halfway through the song, I opened my eyes to see another student with long, shaggy, red hair standing in the doorway holding a red electric guitar.  The music drew him to my room like ants to sugar.  “Is that Nirvana?”, he said.  Just like that, I made my first friend in college through music.

I could go on and on with several other songs from several different genres. Instead, I’ll save them for a potential “part 2” in the future.

Perhaps you can relate to the “fuzzy” feeling I get when I hear certain songs.  Do you feel a sense of nostalgia when listening to music from the past?  For me, I never know when that feeling, that sense of comfort, that rush of emotions will strike.  Hopefully, it will strike me often and soon!

I wonder if Chelsea, Bianca, and Yolanda remember our time together as the supergroup TLC!  Reunion tour?

Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

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Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!








2 Comments on “Power of Music – 5 Songs of Nostalgia

  1. Great article on the power of music. During my 36 years teaching PE, I played music as often as possible. It was great in the weight room and fitness center. Letting the students pick the music got them more involved in the class.
    BTW a reunion with those girls would be great for them and you. And if you dare, have a repeat performance of your best song. Think of what that would do for shool morale!

    • jcahill – I have been teaching physical education for 27 years. I began my career teaching in Washington, DC before moving to Atlanta, Georgia to teach at Trinity School. I have a passion for keeping kids healthy and moving during each PE lesson, and throughout their lives. I’m a firm believer that recess is a right and NOT a privilege. Please check out and join my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion. I am happily married and have three beautiful children who are constantly KEEPING ME IN MOTION!

      Thanks for the comment Daniel. I’ll be sure to give you a backstage pass to our reunion tour.

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