It’s funny how certain songs often become attached to specific memories and emotions.
When my son, Ben, was about to play in his first high school basketball scrimmage back in 2010, for example, I was sitting in a gym in West Virginia with several other parents. Along with the sounds of shoes squeaking, basketballs bouncing and people talking (and sometimes squeaking) that evening, there was music playing over the loudspeakers.
Before the game started, I was pretty excited and also more nervous than if I had actually been playing. How would my son do when he got in? Would his team win? And perhaps most importantly, what about making friends? Would the other parents like me?
One of the songs that played while the teams warmed up was “Chicken Fried,” which I had never heard before.
“You know I like my chicken fried, cold beer on a Friday night, the feel of jeans that fit just right and the radio ah-a-a-ah-a-a-onnnn,” the Zac Brown Band song began, and then repeated several times.
I wasn’t sure what it actually meant, as I have eaten plenty of fried chicken, but never referred to it as chicken fried. In addition, I hadn’t had a pair of jeans that fit just right since I gained a few pounds, so I couldn’t relate very well to that portion of the lyrics. I also enjoy the radio in the car, but don’t keep it ah-a-a-ah-a-a-onnnn for all that long.
I didn’t think too much about the song, though, until they played it a second time before game and then a third and fourth time throughout the evening. It became a little ridiculous how often they played it that night, and I was mostly just annoyed by it.
A few weeks later, though, I heard the same song again and suddenly it seemed kind of catchy. The more I heard it after that, the more I grew to love that song. This was partially because the tune grew on me, but mainly because it reminded me of that day sitting in that gym watching my son play basketball. Even today that song and other songs by the same band remind me of different nights of watching my son play basketball and wondering if the other parents liked me.
Another example was when my brother Pat, and his wife, Linda, got married a few years ago. During that visit to Athens, Illinois, I was in a car at one point with my sister, Kelley, and her family and we heard a song named “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” Now, I hate being barefoot, I still don’t have many pairs of blue jeans that I really like and I prefer to be sleeping at night, so I really didn’t care much about the song at first. I also wasn’t sure what the singer was saying part of the time, and I didn’t know why Kelley and her family kept turning the radio up when that song came on.
After few weeks later, though, I heard that song again and suddenly it seemed like a clever and fun tune. And now years later, I love that song and if I hear it playing, I always turn up my radio, computer, phone or whatever else you can hear music ah-a-a-ah-a-a-onnnn these days.
I like the tune, but I also like that it makes me think about my family members and the fun we had at Pat’s wedding. And now I am also hooked on most of the songs by that same artist.
I am certainly not alone in attaching memories and emotions to songs, and I have plenty of them for the country songs, pop songs and cheesy 1980s tunes that I still love today. When I hear these songs, I happily sing along to them, but then turn down the music if my family members are around. They often question my tastes in music, salad dressings and wide range of items.
How they can not like ranch dressing, I’ll never know. It’s good on everything!
Just last week, though, my stepdaughter, Sophia, and her friend were riding in the car with me while we were on the way to watch a high school basketball game when something strange happened. Out of the blue, they were suddenly discussing country music.
They began mentioning songs they hear on the school bus and songs played by other friends, and they decided they wanted to look up the lyrics to a country song that they thought wasn’t too bad. I had never heard them say anything positive about any country songs before, so you can imagine how surprised I was when they started singing.
“You know I like my chicken fried, cold beer on a Friday night, the feel of jeans that fit just right…” and it amazingly went on from there, just a little over eight years after I had heard that song for the first time.
I smiled and sang along in my head, happy that they like the song now, too, and thrilled that somehow even more memories would now be attached to it for me for the rest of my life.
I’m still not sure what chicken fried is, but I know for sure that I love that song, and I smile every time it comes ah-a-a-ah-a-a-onnnn.