Driving home from work last night, I listened to Jann Arden talking about the songs she had chosen for her new album. Many of them were songs that I remembered from the back seat of the car, or the radio in the living room. Not the songs of my teens, but the songs from that desperate, confusing time in between, the days of middle school.
Thanks to iTunes, I was able to download both Arden's covers and a collection of the Carpenters' Greatest Hits. I was too young to have anything but sideways memories of Karen Carpenter, a too-thin presence with a rich and wonderful voice. Tragic and perky at the same time. The songs pull me back so strongly I couldn't do much except to listen to them this morning. Pulled back, not into a particular time and state, but into the psyche of a twelve year old singing Rainy Days and Mondays with a voice that caught on the edges of childhood.
As I listen to those songs again, I notice the shadows under the baby boom myth. Very young, boomers (like generations before them) wished for love they did not believe they would find. Very young, they sang along to sad songs and pulled disappointment deep within, forgotten and powerful. Beautiful girls singing about how unlovely they were, and how unloved. Where did that come from?
and yet. . . underneath the lyrics. . . strong voices, strong beat. Connection with all the girls who did not know that they were lovely and that they would be loved. Affirmation that makes the songs irresistible, even thirty years later.