One of the first few posts I did was based on the idea that if your life were a movie what would the soundtrack be. The ironic thing is that I consider music to be a part of me, part of who I am, part of what I want to be. This installation is called The Soundtrack of My Life. It is a chronological snapshot of the songs, artists and genres that have been a part of my life.
The Soundtrack of My Life.
Music. The single word that defines me. All my life, I have looked to music for inspiration, healing, comfort, joy, reflection. I’m sure you are curious- what songs define me? Heather Cleary.
Considering that I was born at the end of the Vietnam War, you can imagine there are three extremely different routes that I could choose. First was Rock and Roll like Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, The Doors. Then there was Folk music - Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell. Finally there was Disco – Gloria Gayner, Donna Summer. If I had to pick one genre in my formative years I would choose Folk Music. Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin.
Growing up in Pennsylvania and starting Catholic school in the late 70s introduced me to a slew of genres, artists, albums. Dancing is the one hobby that never seems to tire with me. Anything I could listen to that would have me dancing in my living room- I was there. Shake It Up by The Cars- Always got me out in the living room, cutting a rug and having a blast.
In my pre-teen years, Dance/Pop music became more influential over my life. My friend and I would listen incessantly to New Edition. We would talk on our neon pink phones and gossip about this person or that. But when it came down to brass tax, Ronny, Bobby, Ricky and Mike – well they were who would get me moving and having fun.
As I left Catholic school, I headed into the unfamiliar world of public High School. Though I felt lost in my new surroundings, I discovered the one music genre that I am still most passionate about – Rock and Roll. I hit high school at the peak of hair bands and Glam Rock. Poison, KISS, Winger, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, Van Halen.
There is one song from high school that even now continues to be one of my all time favorite songs. It’s the one song that pushes me forward. Dreams by Van Halen. “Straight up we’ll climb, we’ll get higher and higher, oh that’s what dreams are made of.”
I confess right here the next 8 or so years of my life, I became a rather boring music aficionado. Van Halen ruled my life. Every album. Every concert tour. Every singer. Yes Dave and Sam. But I preferred Sammy. All things Van Halen were who I was. It got so bad in college that the guy living down the hall from me became a Van Halen fan because that was all he ever heard.
In college, I left behind my small coal mining hometown. I was 2 hours from home and allowed the freedom I strongly desired. With it came another very influential Van Halen song- Right Now. “What are ya waiting for? Right Now. Come on it’s everything. Right Now.” The video was even more so. At each possible moment, a different occurrence that is happening right now would flash on the video. Phrases like: Right now it is nicer outside. Right now some soup would be nice. Right now someone is work hard for a low wage. Right now She’s Going on With Her Life.
In my final year of college, I met him. I met the guy who rocked my world. It was the summer of 1994. Introduced by friends, the instant I met him, I knew. There was a song we’d always listen to. Heaven (Let Your Light Shine Down) by Collective Soul. But instead of Heaven, Mark would sing Heather.
I left college and headed into the work world. Sarah McLachlan was now on the scene. And though my rock roots ran deep, it was the female artists who influenced me in the mid 90s. Sarah, Paula Cole and Alanis Morrisette. They all had a different, yet strong message. Paula Cole would maybe emerge as the front runner for who was the most influential to me. Her Into the Fire album spoke to me about pushing ahead, depending on yourself.
In 1996, I married Mark on a cold, wet, rainy May day. The song we were introduced to at our reception – Dreams by Van Halen. Our first dance was In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel. Me being me- well I couldn’t just slow dance. He twirled me around, spun me through his fingers, dipped me, all the stuff that makes dancing with another person fun.
Three weeks after we got married in Pennsylvania we moved to Dallas, Texas. Not much of a country fan, some how we came across this song that went something like “Heads Carolina, Tails California – I don’t care where we are going. Up in the mountains, down to the ocean I don’t care as long as we get there.” That became our mini-anthem. He wanted a new job, and I was more than willing to leave my home town. The move to Texas marked a new adventure in my life.
It was probably 2 months into our marriage when Mark came home from work. “Heather,” he said “you need to sit down, we need to talk.” OH MY GOD! What is it? What is wrong? I was thinking the worst. “Heather, Van Halen broke up. They kicked Sammy out of the band.” Oh my world crumbled. Devastated. I felt like I was a kid in a divorce. Who do I pick? Sammy Hagar or Eddie Van Halen? Could I still like them both? What to do?
After about 3 years in
, it became apparent that Mark’s job
was going nowhere. Matchbox 20 had a
song about “I want to wake up where you are.” He was traveling 3-4 days a week. He was frustrated and ready for a
change. That song spoke to both of
us. We picked up our stuff and moved to Texas . Dayton, Ohio
In the fall of 2000, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. The mystery and the wonder of being pregnant can drive deep emotions and strong reactions. The baby and I would listen to different kinds of music during my commute to work. I would talk to the baby and feel it move. No, I didn’t listen to the trendy classical music. This kid and I, we listened to Rock and Roll.
On a rainy early morning in May 2001, our first child, Nolan Joseph was born. Later that morning, Mark played Dreams – it seemed fitting. When Nolan turned 1, I found out I was pregnant again. Bridget Lee was born on a snowy morning in January 2003. I wanted to use music differently for her birth. I found some new age music that helped me stay relaxed and focus on what I needed to do. An artist named Hennie Baker, while not famous, to this day that album keeps me centered.
In early 2006, it became terribly apparent that Mark’s job had yet again hit a wall. I encouraged him to find something new. What song made me do it? Foo Fighters - Everlong. In late March, he was offered a position with Boeing in Seattle, WA. We wanted our children to grow up with diversity and understanding and options. Much to the chagrin of both sets of grandparents, we pulled up our stakes and headed west. The song that helped lead that move? U2’s Walk On.
I have now lived in Seattle for nearly 6 years. Bands have come and gone from my musical rotations. Deep down, I am definitely a Rock and Roll girl. Who are the bands I listen to on my i-Pod? Foo Fighters, Godsmack, Korn, Seether and a little know group out New Orleans called Cowboy Mouth. If it is loud, I’m there. Music is such an integral part of my life. It seems only appropriate that the Soundtrack of My Life landed me in Seattle – such an influential music city.