Hackworth

She could have been Gwyneth Paltrow.

Years later, I actually had to convince myself she wasn’t a young Paltrow by looking up the blonde actor’s birth date and discovered she would only have been 1 that year.

It was my senior year in college, and this particular spring day I was playing in the front yard with two my cocker spaniel puppies.

A few minutes into our play time, she walked up. Paltrow wasn’t, of course, anyone I had heard of then, but she could have been her double — straight blonde hair and all. If you were casting a movie about the ‘70s, she would be the super friendly, bubbly, free-spirited hippie.

She could not resist the puppies. She sat, we talked, and talked, and talked. I was smitten, and I felt guilty about it since I was about to get engaged (for the first time).

A half-hour or more later, she continued on her way. I could not get her face out of my mind.

I only saw her one other time in my life. I was at the campus coffee house one night and there was some applause and a little commotion. I looked over and she was dancing on top of a table. Why was I not surprised?

To this day I can still picture her face.

For some reason, every time I hear the song “A Younger Girl” by the Lovin’ Spoonful, it takes me back to that springtime afternoon.

Music is important to me.


Throughout my life, it seems, whenever I’m down, or even when I’m ecstatic, music is the magic pill. It can pick me up or calm me down.

There are songs I can play and remember exactly where I was the first time I heard them. And there are songs that have special meaning or bring back a memory or two for me.

For example, “My Best Friend” by Tim McGraw was always a special song for my wife so I made sure the DJ played it the night I proposed to her. It was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, at our favorite dance hall, Studebaker’s. So, obviously, that song will always have special meaning and bring back a sweet memory.

How about “California Girls” by the Beach Boys? It was always one of my favorite songs but it became even more special one summer, when I was single. I had just quit a job, after 15 years, and decided I needed to escape the stress of “what’s next?” I took my son — he was about 13 at the time, and went to — where else (?), Myrtle Beach.

We stopped in a shop where, for something like $5, you could record a song on a cassette tape (remember those?). It was like karaoke with all the background music, etc. All you had to do was sing. So we did our best duet. Then we put the top down on my 1966 Mustang and drove up and down the boulevard playing that cassette as loud as we could.

Seems silly now. It didn’t then. I wonder if anyone mistook that for the real Beach Boys singing?

So what songs mean something special to you?

I’m tired of writing about me. Send me an email and tell me what song is special to you and why. If you can keep it to about 50-60 words, I will publish your story in a future column.

How about it?

John Hackworth is the Pulitzer Prize-winner commentary editor for The Daily Sun. You can email him at john.hackworth@yoursun.com.

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