Confessions of a Serial Songwriter: Decisions Decisions... What Song Changed Your Mind?

My daughter Layla is an academic. She has applied to and is waiting to hear from several colleges at which point she will decide where she will go in the fall. (Don't ask me how that can be. I just birthed her a few minutes ago. But that's a different blog.) She has discussed her options diligently with her guidance counselor and with her father, (also an academic). She has visited several schools. She has researched extensively and is waiting patiently.

Here's how I decided where I wanted to go to college: While visiting the University of Maryland I was walking across campus and I heard "Cowgirl In The Sand" wafting from a dorm window. I loved "Cowgirl in the Sand."

I didn't need to hear about the curriculum. I didn't need to hear about diversity on campus, how close it was to Washington D.C., or how much fun the football games were. I didn't need the 1970-something version of the Fiske Guide to guide me. All I needed was to hear a song. I returned home and told my parents I knew where I wanted to go to school. There wasn't a doubt in my mind.

If Layla ever said she wanted to go to NYU because she heard "Bad Romance" in the student lounge, I'd call the doctor. But she doesn't say that. She is carefully and responsibly weighing her options.

Every so often, my level headed daughter reminds me that she is not the same girl I was when I was young. She is right. I'm not unhappy about that. She's making informed, thoughtful decisions. By the same token, I am not unhappy about the girl I was either. I have garnered much joy from my impulsive behavior.

Guess why I bought a Mazda Miata with a good portion of my first publishing advance. I saw a commercial on television where the spiffy little car was winding up a country road under a starry sky. "Sleepwalk" was playing in the background. I loved "Sleepwalk." I bought that car. I am a Mad Man's dream. I wasn't even in the market for a car. But if I was going to buy one I didn't need Consumer Reports, Yelp or Angie's list to tell me which one it would be.

Songs are powerful.

I'm a pushover.


Guess what song made me want to be a songwriter. "Close To You?" "Anticipation?" "I Saw The Light?"

All of the above.

Songs that made me kiss the boy I wouldn't have kissed otherwise. "Stairway To Heaven." "Midnight at the Oasis." Two different boys.

Songs are Powerful. They change my mind.

Songs that made me late because I had to pull over to the side of the road to catch my breath when I heard them on the radio for the first time: "Don't Dream It's Over." "You Get What You Give." "All Of Me." "Boom Clap."

My favorite song placement in a film: "Both Sides Now." In Love Actually, Emma Thompson is opening a Christmas gift. She recently happened to witness her husband purchasing a necklace and she's sure that's what's inside. Alas, inside the box is a Joni Mitchell CD. From this, (and a couple of other clues) she realizes he must have given the necklace to another woman. She escapes to her bedroom to compose herself.

That moment with that song.

I have been on that side of Both Sides. I feel what she feels. (Plus, Emma Thompson is a really good actress.) I slowly reduce to an amoeba-like puddle in my theatre seat. Tears in my popcorn. Salt upon salt.

For all the decisions I've made while a song ran through my head I have no regret. In fact, all I have is thanks. Thanks for fine tuning a feeling. Thanks for taking my emotions to another level. Thanks for making the reds redder and the blues bluer. Thanks for pushing me over the edge when I was almost there.

Thank you Joni. Thank you Neil. Thank you Carpenters. Thank you Carly Simon. Thank you Santo and Johnny. Thanks to Music Supervisors who get it right. Thank you to everyone who wrote a song that changed my life or changed my mind. Or made me late. It was worth it. I can only hope that I have written (or will write) a song that makes someone want to pull over to the side of the road. For me, those are the ones that count.

Please visit me on my Serial Songwriter Facebook Page. I'm always interested in your opinion. Even if you're not a songwriter. :)