OK, one more self-indulgent post. Most people who know are familiar with how big and REM fan I was. That said, I don’t know if anyone understands how integrated their music has been with my life. When I went to boarding school 25 years ago, a friend played a song called “I Believe” that opened with a banjo. All I could think was “WTF is this?” and kinda assumed it was one of those bands that I’d never appreciate. But things changed. Every album has been something special to me and punctuated the passage of time, but the role of their music has always seemed to go deeper than that…
- My senior year, I trained for the upcoming baseball season by running to “Welcome To The Occupation” from Document. I can’t hear that song without thinking of me at 17, running around a rainy outdoor track (didn’t quite have the endurance that I do now, so there weren’t too many other songs I listened to).
- In college, I took my first trip home freshman year listening to Lifes Rich Pageant. Something about surviving that first part of college that felt like a victory and I still feel that way every time I play that album
- I learned to drive with my dad while listening to Reckoning & Fables of The Reconstruction on auto-repeat. Nothing else. I think I parellel park more effectively when humming the chorus of “Pretty Persuasion”.
- The first CD I ever owned was REM’s Out of Time–even though I already owned the cassette.
- The day I decided to quit my job at Lockheed Martin as a satellite engineer was also the day I first saw REM live in concert. First song was “I Took Your Name”, featuring the line “I’m ready to close the book on NASA and outer space”. You can’t script that stuff.
- Started my first company listening to Up, constantly yelling the lyrics from Walk Unafraid and Falls To Climb because they caught my thinking.
- Driving cross-country to start our new life, Cherise and I listened to Reveal every morning as our wakeup call, including singing along to “I’ll Take The Rain” to honor our move to Seattle (like I said, you can’t script this).
- Our wedding song was “At My Most Beautiful” from Up. We still drop everything and dance to that song when it comes on.
- As an infant, the song I sang my daughter to sleep with more than any other was “You Are The Everything” from Green. First song I taught her to sing was “Fall On Me” from Lifes Rich Pageant.
- The only music I listened to in the hospital after open heart surgery was Accelerate. Perfect combination of lively music and comfortable music.
- Nowadays, every night I drive home late, I play REM’s 39 Songs and provide a personal concert–focusing on the Chronic Town tunes. For one hour, I’m the unofficial fifth member of REM.
To say I’m grateful is an understatement. It took me a few years to find them, but needless to say, I’ve never let go. People will debate where REM ranks among the all-time greats. I’ll always know how important they’ve been to me. Mike, Peter, Michael, and Bill: Thanks. It’s easy to underestimate the transformative nature of music, but hard to do it when you’ve been doing it for 31 years (and I’ve been enjoying it for 25). I face my 40s without new material to look forward to, but I trust the 31 years of material can help get me through the rest of the way. But if you ever changed your mind…