MUSICAL MEMORIES. “The Newlywed’s Ode To Joy”

Excerpt from:
From Part Three: Adding Music
Chapter 7


All of us have musical memories. Where we were when a song played. Remembering the words to songs from childhood. Music remains after much else has been forgotten.

As you read this selection, consider the power of music as a conduit for memory. How could that power be put to work in a work search?


Musical Memories: The Newlyweds’ Ode To Joy

Why sure I remember George and Barbara. Came rolling through here in the summer of ’48, or maybe it was ’49. Long, long, time ago so don’t go quoting me on the year. I can tell you how hot it was that summer though.

Now let me tell you kids something about the heat. Most peoples, they go thinking that this being Sunshine Arizona it is always hot. They believe there is no difference in how hot. But I have lived here in Sunshine Arizona now for 96 years, and I can tell you right now as you are standing there with that old tape recorder out here in the shade of the porch of Johnny Tomorrow’s General Store that there is hot. And there is hot. You believe it sir. Some days, most days, most of us don’t even feel the heat. It’s maybe 90 or 95 degrees. Heat like a second skin. It’s something you carry with you.
And besides then the nights come, it gets right cool and the whole thing don’t matter much anyways.

There might be some other places, somewhere down 66, that get this hot. But I don’t have no idea where they might be.

But you were asking me about George and Barbara. They came though sometime towards the start of the really hot season. And I knew right away they was different.

See first of all, they was about the best looking pair a kids ever seen around these parts ‘cept of course for the ones up on the movie screens. I am telling you, sure as I sit here in this old rocking chair that there was folks who would have taken them to be maybe Betty Grable and Montgomery Clift when they drove up in the middle of that heat in that old blue Chevy coupe.

We get all the movies here. Why, old Henry Fonda himself came through here one day. Sat down on that very bench where you’re sitting now. Took out a red bandana and wiped his brow and said, “Hot here.” And I swear but I wasn’t talking to old Tom Joad hisself!

And that ain’t the end of that story. It was maybe 20, 25 years later and this big tall fella, skinny boy with a real fine white set a teeth who looked just like ole Henry–by that time I was calling him ole Henry like we were pals you know–this tall fella came just smokin into town on one of the loudest damn motorcycles I have ever seen. Wearin’ one of this big shiny helmets with an American flag painted on it! Now he takes it off real slow, and I’ll be damned if he don’t pull a red bandana outta his back pocket just like old Henry did, wipe the dust and the sweat away and say, “Hot here” just like old Henry! Yessir he did. Why except for the fact that this young fella was taller, it coulda been old Henry Fonda all over again!

Sure, I was wonderin that day George and Barbara drove up if they would be all wild like those Fonda boys too.

And I don’t know what ever happened to George and Barbara. All I know is that they stayed a day and a night in that hotel over cross the street. I remember he said that she needed the shower, then he laughed, and she rolled her eyes like she was saying, “What am I gonna do with this big old lug?” but you could tell she was nuts about him anyways.

He had a bit of wildness in him. I could see that in his eyes. Kinda scared, tough and determined no one was gonna get in his way. No sir.

And you could tell he was lookin out for her big time. Wherever they went off to, I can tell you one thing. He never, never, never, let no one mess with her. And if any one had tried I can bet you they was sorry.

Just like now, we had had this little café right inside the door where you see them coolers sittin now. Course the prices were just a bit lower. Johnny Stewart’s Blue Dream Road Eggs and Hash. 25 cents. That comes with all the coffee you can drink.

It was the morning right before they left, Barbara and George they was sitting there having that special for breakfast and they was talking something ’bout her getting a job in some bank somewhere and him doin office work. I guess those would be the jobs they took up.

It was pretty early in the morning, so it was still cool. Course there was no air conditioning back then. The window was open, they was sittin’ there right inside and I was out here, just like I am now, holdin’ down the fort, and I could hear pretty much everything they was saying.

Now ever since he built this place, Johnny has had that old piano right inside there. And when it would get slow, or sometimes just cause he felt like it, he’d just sit down and play that piano. Mostly he played it in the very early morning or in the very late at night.

So he fixes them their special Blue Dream eggs and hash, pours up some coffee, smiles and goes and sits down at the piano. It was right than that Barbara, she starts talking about workin’ at the bank and George says somethin’ ’bout office jobs and bein’ part of an office team. Just him at the boys down at the office.

Johnny, he hears it too. I look in the window, I see Johnny looking at that handsome young and full of promise couple. Johnny winks at me and starts up that piano, he’s a playing that beautiful old song–“These Foolish Things”

Ta da da da,
Da da da da da da da
Ta da da da da da
Da da da da da.. .

You know how pretty that song is. And Johnny, he could play that song just as pretty as that Monk fella or Duke or even as pretty as Sarah Vaughn could sing it.

Barbara, she asks what that song is called and Johnny says, “Why that song is called, “These Foolish Things,”

Nobody says anything for about a minute. Johnny, he just sits there at the piano. Then George, he smiles says, “Know any Beethoven?” You remember I told you that George, somewhere he had a streak, he had a wildness, in him and maybe he thought he could stump old Johnny or something. I don’t know. But Johnny, he looks at George and he say, “Why sure young fella,”

And with just with his right hand, he starts out setting down some single, clear notes, every note like a bell ringing, Johnny picks out the first bars to the chorale piece of the “Ode To Joy.” I believe that’s the ninth symphony? And damned if Johnny, doesn’t keep going!

Starts in to give it a full sound with his left hand when he comes around again, and then–and I nearly came outta my chair at this one, I had no idea Johnny knew how to go singing in German, Johnny starts in singing the words to that little song !

“Freude schone Gotterfunken,
Tochter als Elysium!”

And than I see George, he gets this big old smile on his face. Like nothing I ever seen before. That smile was just like the sun coming up over the desert and he gets up, walks over to the piano and he starts singing along with Johnny! And they go though that whole damn song together and than they are both laughing and than they do it again! You woulda thought there was big mugs a beer and some giant dance hall in Berlin or something from the way those two were singing. But they was singing, then Barbara was singing, she was clapping and it was just the three of them in there but it felt like they had filled the room ’cause of all the spirits was with that young couple.

I knew it then. I knew there’d be tough times ahead for those two, but I knew they’d be fine. No, I knew they would pass fine right on by and go a running off to wonderful!

I heard them sing that morning. Really sing. And if you happened to be passing by, or if you had been sitting here holdin down the fort–which is what I do here, in Sunshine Arizona–you would have heard them too. That fine young couple. Singing in the morning.

Singing away like their life had just begun.



•The story was narrated by an older man. Is there an older person in your life who could be useful in your search for work? Does that person know you are searching?
•There was a direct mention of the actor Henry Fonda and an indirect mention of his son Peter. Do the family connections—genetic family as well as the people who populate your life who you might consider family all know of your work search? Might one of them have a connection to work for you?
•Is there a piece of music that you connect with a certain job? Think back. When you recall that music—does it prompt other associations that could be useful in your search?
•The story portrays a couple at the beginning of their life together. By the end of the story, the future happiness of the couple is clear. Think back to the beginning of your work life. What song comes to mind? What associations do you have from that song? Could any of those associations help you today? How?
•Two very different pieces of music are connected and used here. A jazz standard and a Beethoven Chorale. Their connection is a surprise. Have you ever been surprised by the circumstances that lead you to work? What did you do that lead up to those circumstances? Might any of your actions work now?
•Imagine your own very specific musical memory. Just like this one—only yours. What do you now know from that musical memory that you didn’t know before?

Turning thinking into action: Keep track of your musical memories. Write down the connections —however arbitrary they might seem.

What if . . . . .there were something in that musical memory of you at the beginning that could help you find work? What would it be?

What if. . .the impromptu joy of three strangers suddenly singing together in the middle of the desert, could somehow be channeled into a work search for you? What could you do to make that happen?

2 Responses to “MUSICAL MEMORIES. “The Newlywed’s Ode To Joy””

  1. Dale Says:

    Dunno. Song that keeps goin’ through my head is “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” . . . .

    Seriously, though, this is an interesting premise, one that could be useful more largely in our lives: what songs resonate with you? What do they tell you about your bliss?

  2. chicagoguy14 Says:

    Dale–Look at the lyrics of the song that came to you after reading the piece.

    “Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.

    Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

    Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;

    Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?”

    One the reasons the song gave such hope to so many people is that it’s message was–“I’m a good investment. And here is why!” EXACTLY the message needed for finding work.

    And the reason you got to that message is not from a set of instructions on filling out a resume. The way you got there is by searching for a musical memory. When you got there. and you recalled “Brother Can You Spare Me a Dime” it seemed at first silly.

    But as it turns out your song was right (pardon the pun) on the money.

    So the connection to action from this would be to think :OK, what did I do before that I could do again?” And then to ask—:who is my brother? And then ask.

    All the while remembering that the profoundly brilliant Yip Harburg—who wrote this song and so many others–also wrote, with his pal Harold Arlen– a pretty well known ditty that had the lyric:

    “Some day I’ll wish upon a star
    And wake up where the clouds are all
    Behind me.”

    Lyrics that will still be here generations after the last motivational poster is torn off the break room wall and the responses to questions in job interviews have turned to dust.

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