Memories of songs are often connected in our minds with a specific emotional event or close person in our lives. For example, I’ve always been attracted to reggae music for its upbeat tempo and beat, and to this day am reminded of my daughter Laura when I hear the music of Bob Marley. It was she who first introduced me to his unique style, and his song “Three Little Birds” remains one of my all-time favorites.
Another reggae song I love is Jimmy Cliff’s version of “I Can See Clearly Now,” released in 1993 as part of the soundtrack for the movie Cool Runnings. The song was originally recorded by Johnny Nash in 1972. It’s a good song, but the period between those two years traces an interesting arc across some of the most important milestones in my own life.
1972 was a tumultuous year full of uncertainty for me, and was part of an historic period for our country. It was just one year after my husband 1st Lt. James L. Hull’s plane was shot down while on a mission over Laos, resulting in his death. The war was going badly. America’s last ground troops had been withdrawn from Vietnam, and years of public opposition to the Vietnam War had reached a fever pitch, with 100,000 antiwar demonstrators gathering in cities all over the country. My reactions to the protests were mixed. After all, I hated the war because I’d lost Larry in it, but I remained proud of his service, and that of thousands of other brave Americans. It was a confusing, tragic and rocky time for me personally, along with millions of other Americans.
It was also the year I began my career as a teacher at East Topeka Jr. High School in Topeka, Kansas. On a whim at the beginning of that summer, I had made a bet with a teacher friend that I could get a job selling foreign cars. I did it to earn money for graduate school, as I’d been accepted to the University of Kansas. I won the bet, and spent the summer extolling the virtues of Jaguars, Datsuns, Volvos and Toyotas to buyers seeking an exotic alternative to the staid Big Three domestic automakers. At the time, female car salespeople were few and far between.
By 1993, when Jimmy Cliff’s version of “I Can See Clearly” was released, I had found a way to move forward with my life, and had accepted the realities of my past. Just like in the song, my vision for the future of my life was clear and unimpeded with blue skies in sight for what I hoped would be many years to come.
Then, I received an unexpected call from the U.S. Air Force informing me that Larry’s remains had been found, an event that opened up a floodgate of painful memories. It would take 13 years, but I was ultimately able to keep my promise to have him buried with honors in a beautiful military ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. At that ceremony, I was once again reminded of the stirring lyrics of this classic song.
Share some examples of the powerful songs in your own life that still trigger emotional memories of loss or triumph?
© Tyra Manning 2018