I have fond memories of making my own "mix tapes." Going to exercise? I need a mix tape to pop into my Walkman. Driving a long distance? Gotta have a mix tape to start the trip on the right note. Feeling down? Mix up those slow songs that allow me to wallow in my misery or shuffle those upbeat songs to shake the blues away. My choice of artists and the styles of music were in sync with the ever-changing aspects of the soundtrack of my life.
My niece Emily, her husband Michael, their son Enzo, and their dog Lambo are heading south. New job and new adventures - that sort of thing. Of course, the weeks leading up to the move have been exhausting, as anyone who has moved a long distance can attest. But I knew I had the perfect small gift to help them on their journey, so I texted Emily with this message:
I cannot fault Emily for laughing at the idea of a mix CD of Bruce Springsteen. I do strange things like this occasionally. Perhaps she doesn't even listen to the Boss. Poor Emily probably doesn't even know what a mix tape is, not having the pleasure of using those sweet plastic cassettes with a collection of music favorites. I actually wonder if she has ever held a cassette in her hands. More than likely, Emily knows what a CD is, but she found the entire idea of a mix CD strange, particularly one her beloved Uncle A.J. made. Even Emily's sentimentality has its limits.
Springsteen's song "The Power of Prayer" captures the spiritual attributes of music and the idea that music is a companion throughout many significant moments in our lives. We all attach songs we have heard to life's moments, whether comedic or tragic, celebratory or transitory. Songs can become concrete parts of otherwise fleeting feelings, grounding them in our souls.
As I was growing up, I can recall the tedious yet magical process of creating mix tapes. This was long before Apple or Spotify streaming services could create playlists for you, making them portable so you never carry anything with you. But you simply can't touch a physical playlist or mix the way we could back in the day.
I had those glorious colorful Memorex plastic cassette tapes I stuck in the recording slot on my Aiwa sound system. They were full of songs I copied from my stack of cassettes when I painstakingly lined up the songs to make a perfect recording. I slowly handprinted the list of songs on the small cardboard sheet in the cassette's carrying case. Hours later, I had created my own mix tape, which I could put in my pocket, share with a friend, or give as a gift. I had something special then, something real and tangible. I couldn't bring it up on a cell phone I did not have nor download it from the web. It was my mix tape.
When I chose the songs to put on Emily's mix, I relived my past as I meticulously chose relevant songs about change, dream chasing, friendship, and love. I wanted this mix to be perfect. "Darlington County" simply had to be the opening song because that's literally the place Emily's family is going. It is a song about two guys heading south for jobs and finding nothing but trouble. The song is about the excitement and unpredictability of going somewhere new and discovering more about one another on the journey.
The rest of the CD is filled with songs about life's journey. "Thunder Road" and "Kingdom of Days" follow one couple just beginning to chase their dreams and another older couple reminiscing on the remarkable life they have shared together. Other songs speak about trust, adversity, loss, and hope, fulfilling my plan for a song for every occasion Emily may encounter.
Emily doesn't know this, but I hid her Mix CD in her glove compartment before she left. Kids these days don't always know what's good for them. However, I am positive Emily has her own music she enjoys, so I don't need to be too worried. Still, I will feel more comfortable if she has a Springsteen Mix CD personally curated by someone who took a journey similar to hers over thirty years ago, a Mix CD full of songs and lessons for life's journey.
Best wishes and safe travels on this special journey,
Emily, Michael, Enzo, and Lambo.
I am sure it will be quite the adventure.
Hartsville Drive YouTube Mix 😉