Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Autobiographical Songs

Autobiographical songs, Ohio

Left Ohio. Carissa was his second cousin, killed in a freak accident. Burned to death. Just like their grandfather. What are the chances? he asks in this highly autobiographical song full of melancholy and wondering, loss and unending questions. The landscape of rust-belt Ohio, devastated by prescription drugs, black-tar heroin, unemployment when the manufacturing jobs left, when the mines closed.

I might have been drawn to this song because it deals with memoir, or because of the Ohio connection (I hail from there) or because of the voice. Nothing spectacular, the whole song is somewhat flat and not exactly full of emotion, but it evokes. It tells a story that demands our attention, because we all know someone like Carissa, someone deserving of a little poetry in their life, who vanish way too suddenly from this earth. He also brings us back to family, all those needling connections that we sometimes want to forget about, and our place of birth which we leave only to return to for funerals. Such as Carissa’s.

I left Ohio in 1982 without any real idea of what I was doing. I went off to Chicago to do volunteer work in the inner city. It was a rough time, emotionally demanding. There were times I must have appreciated the fact that I was not planning to stay. Yet I did. Here I am 35 years later.

I still have family back home, though my parents have passed. I no longer have ties to Dayton or Centerville where I grew up, but several friends still reside near there or else in Athens where I attended university. I go back every couple of years to connect with good friends, to walk the hills or by the Hocking River. We hit garage sales and the thrift stores. We sit around and talk about old times, friends who are no longer with us, or whom we have lost contact with.

All of this stirred up from a 3-minute song. It is amazing how much you can fit into such a small space. Why not try listening to music from when you were young or that mentions the state you once lived (I’m sure with the magic of the internet this has all been collected and annotated for us to discover online). Write a flash memoir, your own song about a life/family event.

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