Saturday, February 14, 2009


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Grace Jones Was Right On

Edward T. Hall is an anthropologist whose work we've been reading for class these past two weeks. In *The Dance of Life*, he writes, "One of the differences between white Americans and Native Americans, as well as blacks, is that the latter two are closer to their music" (pp. 171-172). The whole article is about rhythms -- interpersonal and collective ones.

He also writes about a number of musicians and composers: " represents a sort of rhythmic consensus, a consensus of the core culture" (pp. 169-170).

In the margins, I wrote, "How come I love Disco when my core culture wasn't black or gay male?" Always, I have loved the music played on radio stations that were hosted by black D.J.s. No one else in my immediate family appreciated those stations. In its day, Disco was known to be beloved by a number of gay men, and not necessarily by as many lesbians, and so I'm always a bit moved, recalling my painfully self-aware and as-secret-as-possible-lesbian, teenage self, rollerskating alone to it with pre-Walkman headphones, up and down Hickory Rd., which ran parallel to the street I grew up on.

Often, I'm convinced that Disco, Funk and R&B altogether were how I got through my teens.

Of course, I know that not all black people love Disco, Funk and R&B, but growing up, more of the black kids liked these genres than the white kids I knew, for instance, when I was the Freshman Class treasurer, I planned a rollerskating party as our year-end fundraiser and many of my white friends thought we'd lose money. It was wonderfully profitable, even as I was among the only white kids to participate in it.

Here's a photo of me back then (I'm on the right), among my fellow Freshman class officers; I don't recall Brian, our class VP, to my left, being especially enthused by the rollerskating event...:

I don't know if my dad had a favorite musician, but my mom's was Barbra Streisand and my sisters' were Judy Collins, Michael Franks, Steeleye Span...although I did learn of The Crusaders' "Street Life" from my oldest sister Deb.

Here, I'll share a list I posted within the EAGLE Community space for GLBT IBMers and our friends a number of years ago, and you'll see my musical 'druthers:

Some of My Autobiography in Music

The following songs have informed my life especially so far; I can't recall names of a number of the artists, but I've tried to list them in chronological order:

I Feel the Earth Move -- Carol King -- When I was four years old or so, I used to spin around to this record of my older sister Deb till I was dizzy and then would fall down and listen to the rest, amused that I felt the earth move.
Lovin' You -- Minnie Ripperton -- At 10 or so, hearing it was my first consciousness of my capacity for romance; it stirred me way back then. I loved the birds singing in the background.
Street Life -- The Crusaders -- Deb's record, too; made me wistful, and feels like I'm Randy Crawford myself whenever I hear her sing it.
Popsicle Toes -- Michael Frank -- Another of my sister Deb, with the best lyrics. I used to try to imagine the girl about whom he was singing.
Sarah, Smile -- Hall & Oates -- Whenever the sun came out, my mom would say, "Sarah must have smiled." It was so thrilling to hear a pop song about a beloved woman named Sarah.
Oseh Shalom Bimromav -- From Jewish liturgy, about God bringing peace, and is my mother's and my favorite tune of the daily services.
Halachma'anyah -- From the Passover Hagaddah, about all who are hungry feeling free to join us at our table and eat. I like the sentiment and also the tune, which is gorgeous and pure.
Gesher Tsar M'od -- Israeli Folk song -- I like the lyrics, which mean: "All of the world is a very narrow bridge. The main thing is not to be afraid." I sing it as I descend especially steep hills on my bike or Rollerblades.
Sir Duke -- Stevie Wonder -- This was the first and only 45 my dad bought me -- the only pop song both of us agreed we liked.
Shake Your Body Down to the Ground -- Michael Jackson -- My friend Amy and I won a school dance contest when we were 11, doing a line-dance to this song.
These Are the Good Times -- Chic -- Major rollerskating music, and I rollerskated to it in Central Park and up and down Hickory Road in Stamford.
Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now -- Same.
We Are Family -- Sisters Sledge -- My mother, sisters and I would dance to this routinely at family weddings.
Is She Really Going Out with Him? -- Joe Jackson -- Wasn't fully conscious as to why this resonated with me at the time and have since figured it out.
Illusion -- Imagination -- This is a beautiful, silky song that I can't find anywhere, by a British Jazz/Pop group, Imagination. **Update: Nat of EAGLE in Hursley was kind enough to locate a copy and sent it to me for Chanukah, 2001. Heaven!**
Burnin' Down the House -- Talking Heads -- We danced to this a lot in high school.
Papa Can You Hear Me? -- Barbra Streisand -- Heard this right after my dad died and it made me cry.
Sexual Healing -- Marvin Gaye -- This was the first song I heard after returning from sitting shivah for my dad, z"l, over the PA system, publicizing a school dance and I burst into tears from grief and from relief at hearing music again.
Purple Rain -- Prince -- Prince was the nicest part of the only serious relationship I ever had with a boy, during some of high school and two years of college.
Always Something There to Remind Me -- This song haunted my girlfriend and me in high school, as we were trying to be heterosexual and forget each other.
Brick House -- A dormmate, Liz, blasted this a lot during freshman year of college and all of us would dance up and down the halls to it.
Honey for the Bees -- Allison Moyet -- This gorgeous song reminds me of a Lesbian kiss-in I covered for Gay Cable Network in Chicago in 1989.
Send Me Forget-me-nots -- Patrice Rushen [thanks to EAGLE - UK member Michael, who knew the artist] -- I liked the beat and cheerfulness of it.
Lover Girl -- Teena Marie -- I used to imagine that she was singing, "I just want to be your lover, Girl," rather than, "I just want to be your lover-girl."
Oo la la la -- Teena Marie -- Transports me.
You Make Me Feel Mighty Real -- Sylvester -- Celebratory and makes me feel alive. Reminds me of Sandra Bernhard, who sings a version of it, and of bikeriding.
Mama Used to Say -- Junior -- I just love the beat and melody, and Mama's advice: "Don't you rush to get old."
Holding Back the Years -- Simply Red -- A beautiful song I first heard on the radio while a student abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which was my final year of valiantly attempting to find a man who could be sufficiently attractive to me.
You Spin Me Right 'round -- Dead or Alive [thanks again to Michael E.] -- We would dance to this at the club affiliated with Hebrew University, the Bar Aton.
Through the Fire -- How I felt upon coming out during my senior year of college.
Father Figure -- George Michael -- Appealed to me, since my father, of blessed memory, had died when I was 17.
Pull Up... -- Grace Jones -- Saw her in concert as the guest of my friend Robert, of blessed memory, for his birthday. He died of AIDS at 28.
Pump Up the Volume -- Used to dance to this at "Paris" dance club for lesbians after playing rugby matches in Chicago; was number 5 in the scrum. We felt almighty after matches.
Keep on Movin' -- Soul 2 Soul -- The entire album felt like my soundtrack for at least a year.
Everybody, Everybody -- Black Box -- Another song we'd dance to after rugby.
Constant Craving -- kd lang -- a theme-song for my early-20s.
Somethin', Somethin' -- Maxwell -- a good song to rollerblade to, and which made me feel more settled faster after our move to Montclair, where I skated to it around a student parking lot of Montclair State University.
Golden Lady -- Stevie Wonder -- on par with "My Cherie Amour," both of which automatically elevate my mood as high as it can go when I hear either song.
It's All for You -- Janet Jackson -- Pat took me to her concert for my birthday in July, 2001, and I just love everything about Janet Jackson, particularly that this song, for example, embodies my definition of music that I love: cheerful with a beat.
Shackles (Praise You) -- Mary Mary -- Thanks to EAGLE - Mid-Hudson Valley member, Peter, who furnished the correct title and artist. I heard it most memorably at the GLAAD Awards dance in L.A. in 2001.
I Feel Like a Woman -- Shania(sp?) Twain -- I don't know that that's the exact title, but I love dancing to this song with Pat and friends.
I Know it's Not Too Ghetto... -- Faith Evans -- and that's not the title of the song, but that's how it begins and what I really like about the song is the driving background instrumental part of it, rather than the actual singing
Wonderland and the one about reality being surmountable -- John Meyer -- I just love his voice and the themes of both of those songs.
Wonderful -- Annie Lennox -- I love scream-singing along to the chorus when I'm on long drives; I play it over and over because I like the whole song so much, how it's slow and sad and then cheerful/angry and quick and loud, and thank God, I can't relate to the lyrics.
Update: I'm adding these more randomly than chronologically, and wanted to include them, too:
Life's What You Make It -- Talk Talk -- I'm feeling like that's the stage I'm at now: hopeful, optimistic, learning, growing
Golden -- Jill Scott -- Heard it while rollerblading around Montclair this morning. Just went to and watched the video twice...awe-inspiring
Move Your Body -- Nina Sky -- Like Aaliyah's "Hot Like Fire" or Sinead O'Connor's "I Want Your (Hands on Me)," I'm shy about listening to this song other than around Pat or in my car by myself, but anytime I hear any of them, I smile and become imaginative.
I Can't Wait -- New Shooz -- This 1984 song might be the theme song for our wedding when Pat and I ever have one.
Outstanding [Girl, You Knock Me Out] -- Gap Band -- Or this one.
You're My Everything -- Anita Baker -- Or this one.
Note: Looking for the lyrics to New Shooz's "I Can't Wait," which I couldn't find, I found, which prompts me to add all of the following songs:
Take on Me -- Aha -- Was living in Jerusalem when this was popular; probably heard it on Voice of America's pop radio show.
Come on Eileen -- Dexy's Midnight Runners -- There was no particular Eileen in high school, who moved me, so I enjoyed the song more purely, imagining my own playfully, smiling ideal version of an Eileen.
Sarah, Sarah -- Jonathan Butler -- My mother told me it made her imagine my one boyfriend ever, wondering, as Butler sings "Sarah, Sarah, what happened to you and I [sic]?" Nonetheless, it's a gorgeous song and I'm fond of it.
People Are People -- Depeche Mode -- Liked the beat and the message; don't know that I allowed myself to connect it with my lesbian identity at the time.
I Want to Know What Love Is -- Foreigner -- Could have been a theme song for discovering my lesbianism, but it wasn't, consciously anyway.
Everybody Wants to Rule the World -- Tears for Fears -- I love the melody of this and the chorus; made me want to do something powerful whenever I heard it.
Promises Promises -- Naked Eyes -- was a freshman at the University of Michigan when this came out if I remember correctly.
(Keep Feeling ) Fascination -- Human League -- Just fun!
Look of Love -- ABC -- Reminds me of a high school friend I lost after college. I had such a crush on her in high school; I first saw MTV at her family's condo; it was a Roxymusic video.
True -- Spandau Ballet -- Reminds me of living in Jerusalem...more Voice of America -- didn't matter if the artists were American, just that they sang pop tunes in English.
Something About You -- Level 42 -- I love the sound of this song; maybe this is another possibility for a future wedding, but I can't recall all the words.
Lullaby -- The Cure -- Listening to this when it came on the radio (WLIR-FM) calmed me a bit after my dad died during my senior year of high school, as I mentioned above.
Close to Me -- The Cure -- In high school, this made me long for love, but with no one specific in mind.
Tainted Love -- Soft Cell -- Was fun to exercise to this; stayed in Ann Arbor over spring break and had my dorm-room to myself and I recall moving to it then.
Shattered Dreams -- Johnny Hates Jazz -- Like Level 42's song, this one transported me into its story through its beat and great-sounding singer.
And now am remembering in addition:
Black Boys on Mopeds -- Sinead O'Connor -- Just loved the sound of it; was working at VMS ( in Chicago at the time and my colleague Cedric introduced me to that particular song.
OK, and now to return more closely to our time:
It Wasn't Me -- Shaggy -- I just love the bouncy-ness of the tune and the lyrics amuse me; insisted that Stan listen to it with me in our rental car as we drove back to the L.A. airport from having visited an openly gay business owner and client in Orange County, CA.
Just in Case -- Jaheim -- I like the tune and also the sentiment, which is a bit morbid, but it moves me.
Love -- Musiq -- Sounds like a Gospel song to me and has beautiful lyrics.


S. Darwin said...

Sarah, thanks for the link to Jack Ryan's video, and to your blog. I've been contemplating for a while my own list like this. Delighted to see Popsicle Toes and Purple Rain and the Paris reference. Was there ever a period when you couldn't listen to pop music because of a break-up or trauma? I learned to love jazz in 1994 in a break-up recovery period.

Sarah Siegel said...

I remember Mint Condition's "Breakin' My Heart Pretty Brown Eyes" was a bit bittersweet for a few weeks, but typically, I listened even more so when I felt lonely, sad or jilted.