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I have listened to music for years for years. My first 45 that I owned was “Hey Jude” with “Revolution” as the B side. I heard the song on the radio when I was like in pre-school or kindergarter and a few days later my parents got me the single. It was so cool. The first cassette (ask your parents, if you don’t know what one is) I owned was the Gene Simmons Kiss solo album. It was glorious. Then came hours upon hours of making mix tapes, finding bands to listen to and making music into a lifestyle and as a way to relate to the world.

The point is I have lyrics and tunes stuck in my head. It makes no difference how much MBD, Piamenta or Uncle Moishy I listen too, these songs from my past are still floating around my skull.  Since my father a”h  died, the lack of listening to music has sort of brought out audio fashbacks.  For a while on Facebook I would post what combinations of songs (sort of an aveilus mega-mix) were going through my head on any given day. This got even more of a problem when I would go biking at night.  I’d mentally play, hum and sing songs in my head, because I just didn’t get that jumpstart of energy listening to shiurim.  I’ve come to realized that you can’t quite the music, even if you’re not listening to it.

Most of us can’t help it if we have music in our heads. A random phrase said at work will trigger a song lyric in my head. That’s how it is. A number of months ago I had oral surgery before Shabbos. I was on some fine pain killers and when walking to shul Shabbos morning several songs from my punk past popped in my head. I couldn’t get rid of them. Maybe it was the pain pills, maybe it was the several l’chaims after shul, but eventually they left my head. That’s one type of flashback.

Then there’s the opposite type.  It can happen when in shul during Mussaf of Yom Kippur or during a “stam” Shabbos.  I’ll hear the chazzen/baal tefillah start singing a particular tune and it will automatically bring me back to my high school days, as well.  I’ll instantly be sent to a Shabbos afternoon spent keeping Shabbos with 100 other teens at an NCSY Shabbaton.  I will recall how much I hated, and I usually don’t use or write this word, the idea of Shabbos ending, amid a medly of emotional songs composed by Abie Rotenberg and Avraham Fried. 

I’ve also seen in myself, how easy it is to let music help express or direct what mood you are in. That’s probably a heathy side-effect of not listening to music during various times in the Jewish calendar and while mourning. It’s easy to get out of a bad funk by simply clicking a song in your iTunes. It’s a crutch, especially when you don’t really want to deal/express/accept certain feelings.  Not having that niggun or guitar solo to listen to forces you to relate and express yourself.  I’m sure that given some time I could come up with a slick song lyric it quote from someone as far removed from our religion as possible, but I’ll turn to what’s currently in my head written by Shlomo HaMelech, sung by D’veykus:
Everything has an appointed season, and there is a time for every matter under the heaven. (Koheles 3:1)

4 thoughts on “Flashbacks

  1. Chciago Reader

    No pun, but I totally hear what you are saying.
    Sorry to hear that you’re in aveilus. May you soon sing and dance to music!!

  2. Bob Miller

    Tunes (many kinds and eras, too!) pop into my head because of free association or no obvious reason at all. It can be a simple as seeing or hearing a phrase that appears in some lyric, often in a whole other context. A new tune that “stole” something from an old one can bring the old one to mind.

    Decades ago, I sold nearly all my non-classical LP’s, but the old tunes still rattle around in my head.

  3. Anonymous

    While I no longer listen to “secular” music, I have been known to linger in a store (usually, a Rite Aid pharmacy, for some reason) if a ‘song from my past’ comes on.


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