A Thank You to Kelly Clarkson

I have always been a music fan. From the time I was little I remember my mother playing records nonstop on weekends. The Carpenters, Anne Murray and John Denver were staples on the turntable at our house. Later, when I wanted to something to listen to on my little toy record player, my Mom introduced me to The Beatles by giving me her copy of A Hard Days Night to play. I must have listened to the title track a dozen times that day as I fell in love with the Fab Four.

Over the decades my musical tastes have become ridiculously eclectic. My iTunes library is a mess of bebop, 80s hair metal, R&B, progressive rock, hip hop and anything and everything else. It can take my 10 minutes just to decide what I want to listen to.

I mean, right now I’m listening to a playlist that includes The Ramones followed by Dokken and then Cher.

I love music. I love the way it can bring back memories that have been long buried. I love the fact I can tell you exactly where I was the first time I heard Joe Satriani or Pink Floyd or the B-52s and why I happened to be listening to that particular artist at that particular time.

(There’s a whole sad tale about why I love the B-52’s that is so funny and yet pathetic at the same time that it will make you cry. Another time perhaps.)

My wife Lisa and I spent countless hours listening to tapes on her small portable cassette player in the earliest days of our relationship. We’d spread a blanket on the floor and just listen to music, whether that be Kenny G or Bread or just the local smooth jazz radio station. Later we would go to Penn’s Landing for their smooth jazz free concerts or go see bands we loved down at the casinos in Atlantic City or in Philadelphia.

So when the Alzheimer’s that was slowly taking Lisa from me progressed to the point that she had to be placed in an Alzheimer’s facility, it made perfect sense that I would retreat into music in a big way, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

Lisa and I had lived together for years and being alone in our home for the first time was incredibly rough. Because I knew that she wasn’t on a trip to see family or that she was just out doing some shopping and that she would be home later. I knew that she wasn’t coming home ever again due to the Alzheimer’s and what it had done to her.

I used to think I enjoyed being alone. Turns out that isn’t the case.

Most evenings, I would sit at my Mac and listen to music for hours. Some nights I wouldn’t even bother to turn on the television. I would just sit at the computer, listening to the songs that made up the soundtrack of our lives. The songs that brought back the good memories of what life was like before Lisa got sick.

Which brings us to Kelly Clarkson.

Clarkson had released a greatest hits album back in 2012 titled Chapter One. It included all the monster hits she had recorded since winning American Idol as well as a new song titled “Catch My Breath.”

For some reason I will never be able to explain, “Catch My Breath” connected with me and made me feel better. The lyrics didn’t really apply to what I was going through at the time and it’s not like it spoke to me on some emotional level, but the song took a small amount of the pain that I was going through away.

I must have listened to that song hundreds of times. Watched the music video more times than I can count. I still listen to it on a fairly regular basis.

Is it possible to connect with a piece of music so deeply and not know why? To know that it makes you feel like you can go on but have no clue why it does that?

It’s isn’t an exaggeration to say that Kelly Clarkson got me through some of the worst days of my life. That one song and a multitude of others made it possible for me to get past those first lonely nights at home.

In the months since Lisa passed I still listen to a lot of music. I’ve taken to finding the music videos I loved watching on MTV as a teenager and keeping a playlist of them on YouTube. I’ve made countless playlists on iTunes that cover the entire musical spectrum.

My favorite? The one titled “Lisa” that includes “Catch My Breath” about midway through.

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