I realized the other day that I could attach some theme music to a few key points in my life. The reason this occurred to me was because each song that sparks a memory is written and performed by the same artist. That artist is Alicia Keys. Here are three separate moments in my life and how each song fits.
December 2003 – I was recently engaged and took my fiancé back to my hometown in between Seattle and Tacoma during the holiday break. The local radio stations of where we lived at the time were less than ideal when it came to urban, hip-hop and R&B and so I took advantage of better stations when in Washington. One afternoon, while driving to the Tacoma Mall, Alicia Keys’s “You Don’t Know My Name” came on. My fiancé didn’t know the song, but I somehow did. I remember singing it in the car and telling her, “this is one of the best songs on the radio right now.” She just smiled as I sang to her, just like lovers do before marriage.
October 2010 – I was with my wife and other immediate family members on my first and only cruise at the time. One of the activities that particular Carnival Cruise offered was Karaoke, and we all decided to entertain ourselves trying to sing one afternoon as we cruised the Mexican Riviera. Song after song, my siblings sang silly songs to each other and we all had a good laugh. Then it was my turn. I chose Alicia Keys’s “If I Ain’t Got You.” The song was released several years before on the same album as the song mentioned above, so I knew every word by then, exactly what is needed to rock Karaoke. I stood up on stage, no one knowing what I was going to sing, and dedicated the song to my wife. I then sang my heart out, and I’m sure only those in the audience who knew me appreciated it. For everyone else, I am sure I was an earsore. Until this day, that song is the closest thing we have to “our song” and I still sing the song at home often. All my kids know it, which says something about how that song has fit into my life.
November 2011 – As I have mentioned on this blog in the past, one of my all-time favorite places to think and write is on a plane at night, surrounded by strangers, with the lights of small unnamed towns 30,000 feet below. One evening, either coming or going, I was on a Virgin America flight from coast to coast and I was listening to Alicia Keys’s “Un-thinkinable (I’m Ready)” on repeat. I was also scrolling through photos of my phone, which at the time, included many shots of my two young daughters. My wife and I had been discussing whether to have another child and when would be a good time. I was the holdout, feeling that maybe I was satisfied with the two healthy children we then had. But I kept thinking, Alicia’s sweet voice echoing around my head saying, “If you ask me, I’m ready.” I came home from that trip and told her I was ready. In September of the next year we had our third daughter. Alicia was even a finalist for her name. Instead, she ended up with another name beginning with the letter A.
There are other life moments that come to mind where Alicia Keys’s music has played a starring role, including dancing to “My Boo” in Lucerne, Switzerland to listening to her acoustic “Empire State of Mind” as I walked up West Broadway in lower Manhattan. Her voice and talent has been with me. Thank you, Alicia, for the great music and memories.