A Baker’s Dozen Of Songs That Have Shaped My Life, Before & After.

I haven’t written anything in a bit, it’s been a busy time in my life, but I thought of this last night as I was out for a nice late night summer ride. I listen to music when I’m riding. There was one song that I replayed three times in a row. I’m weird like that. I could probably include 30 or 40 songs in this list, but I am going to try and narrow the broad field of influences to the ones that really seem to have mattered in some way. These are songs that I feel have in some way impacted who I am. I’ll provide a brief description of why. I’m going to leave out a complete volume of my Mother’s favorites… I have fond memories of all that she played on the old console record player: Diana Ross & The Supremes, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Simon & Garfunkel, Bobby Goldsboro, Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand, and more… I’m leaving them out. But still enjoy some of their work even today. Johnny especially, -thanks Mom.

1. Bad Bad Leroy Brown / Jim Croce
I think this song influenced my first LP purchase “Life And Times.” There was something about these ballads, that captured my young mind. “Leroy Brown” was appealing to a young boy, something about it was just cartoonish… it opened me up to Croce’s more serious works. 1973

2. Seasons In The Sun / Terry Jacks
Okay, I would really like to have not listed this, it’s such a cheesy song, but it’s true. I was ten. This melancholy pop hit struck a chord with me. The title reminds me of sunny summers in Eastern Washington. the song was so melancholy! Whether it was the influence of the song or just who I was, I like sad music, I’m a melancholy. I remember calling the local AM station to request this over and over… I used to listen to a busy signal for hours. No one ever told me that a busy signal never changes to a ring. 🙂 Ahhh, 1974

3. Bloody Well Right / Supertramp This song was probably the first song that I really liked that I would consider epic. I just remember it was huge, even on my clock radio. Lyrically, it made no sense to me whatsoever, it was cool, melodic, and had just a hint of rebellion to it. It would open the door for years of great music. Supertramp remains one of my favorite concert experiences, and tops my list of favorite bands. It’s sad that Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies couldn’t keep it going. This was 1975.

4. Hungry Heart / Bruce Springsteen / The River
Okay, I’m skipping a few years here, but these are what I consider, looking back, to be the most influential songs. Although this was one of the Bruce’s most commercially appealing songs, it was generally not well received by his ardent fans. It however introduced him to me. This song was one of twenty tracks on the album that became like one song to me. I wore this vinyl down, and began to buy everything “Bruce” I could get my hands on. This was a strange time in my life, the influences of sex, alcohol, drugs, and heartache were echoed in much of what I listened to. I wouldn’t say this music in any way influenced me toward those things, I simply found a voice to identify with what I was feeling. I was a confused young man. The older I get, the less confused I am, and the more I think Bruce is. 🙂 I was such a fan, by the time the Born In The U.S.A. tour came to the Emerald City, I camped out all night to get tickets. It was a great show.
The River was released in 1980.

5. Hold On Hold Out / Jackson Browne / Hold Out
This wasn’t a song that I would listen to in public, it’s not one that had a lot of commercial appeal. It’s one of the most melancholy/romantic songs I have ever heard. There is a spot that begins at about 3:00, that still brings a tear to my eye ending with the line… “anyway, I guess you wouldn’t know unless I told you (sigh) I, I love you, I mean just look at yourself, I mean what else would I do?” That sigh is worth gold in a song like that. It makes it raw and real. As I began to listen more and more to Jackson Browne’s music, I found again, someone who echoed things that I felt inside. The confusion of adolescence was at a peak for me during these years, I hid it well, but I was suicidal, and unfortunately I learned to enjoy (in a sick way) the sad feelings music like this inspires. Hold Out was released in 1980, but I didn’t discover Jackson Browne until about 1982.
This album captures a lot of what I was going through that year.

6. Adam, Where Are You / Don Francisco / Forgiven
This song will seem wildly out of place along the story line, it was a secret of mine. I was exposed to Don Francisco through my girlfriend’s family who were Christian. Not like I considered myself Christian (which I was not) but there was an authenticity to their faith that was attractive. At the same time, one of my high school teachers had a great influence on me. He was a patient Christian man, who endured me and I am certain prayed for me. I was in full on party mode for the last two years of high school. I would arrive at school drunk frequently, and I would take or smoke almost anything put before me. Somehow though, these lyrics haunted me. I listened to Don Francisco in secret. I did a lot of things in secret. I have no idea when this song was released, I became aware of it in 1981 or 1982.

7. Lord, Is It Mine / Supertramp / Breakfast In America
I’m kinda stuck here, it seems like these years were pretty influential in my life. This was another hidden favorite. The whole album was filled with pretty incredible lyrics and music, this song seemed to call out to something different in me. It was haunting and spiritual. “If only I could find a way to feel your sweetness through the day, The love that shines around me could be mine” was my prayer. My musical tastes at this point swung pretty wildly from thoughtful reflective songs like this to Molly Hatchet. 🙂
The album was released in 1979, but became mine in 1982.

8. Unchained / Van Halen / Fair Warning
This song kinda epitomizes the party attitude that I had during the years of 1981-1985. It would have to be a tie really between this song and The whole album from Queen… “Jazz.” I’ll never forget spinning my Nova around on 164th to the song “Let Me Entertain You.” When it landed in the ditch this song was still playing. They were fast and furious years. I guess, this song didn’t really influence me, as much as it simply reminds me like no other what was going on in my life. I remember listening to this on the way back from an early morning cocaine run in my friend Brian’s fastback mustang. I was driving pretty fast down some back road in Meadowdale and hit a large dog, and put his beautiful car in a ditch. These were sad years for me and anyone close to me. And the dog died.

I got sober in January 1986 and Jesus came into my life in the spring of 1987. For a while, all of the music that I had been listening to up till now, were now “triggers” to thinking and behaving in ways that I was in the process of leaving behind. I sold all of my music at Cellophane Square. Probably 200+ albums,… I think I got $50.

9. Verge Of A Miracle / Rich Mullins / Pictures In The Sky
I remember getting this cassette shortly after I became a Christian. I recall putting it into my cassette player while I was grocery shopping. You know that feeling when you are experiencing a full album at one sitting, and you enjoy the whole thing… it’s a sonic experience as well as an emotional one… this was it for me. This was raw and authentic music. Rich was an amazing musician. I saw him in concert several years after this, I will never forget him singing “Step By Step” barefoot. At this time there were lots of Christian musicians who had a great positive effect in my life, but Rich tops that list. This was 1987 for me.

10. Darn Floor-Big Bite / DA / Darn Floor-Big Bite
Okay, the title is strange, but then so is Terry Taylor. I love Terry and everything he creates. This cassette was in my player during my couple of years at college. They were fun but difficult years as I was trying to learn how to live for Christ in a troubled world. I found this music relevant to my life and somehow encouraging to my young faith. I was, at this time, discovering all of the works of Dylan, as well as many groundbreaking Christian artists such as the Choir and the 77’s. I was enjoying music and life again. This was 88 & 89.

11. The Dance / Billy Crockett / Any Starlight Night
Billy is one of the finest musicians you have never heard of, he is a great guitar player and artful songwriter. He wrote a lot of great songs including “Portrait Of Love” but he really got me with these lyrics “…she pulls you into the ancient divine invitation to dance.” This was the short season when Lori and I were courting… yea it was short, I knew I wanted to dance with her. This was 1991. Unfortunately this is out of print. I cannot find it anywhere but here.

12. Breathe Deep / The Lost Dogs / Scenic Routes
I was in a Christian bookstore perusing the discs when I saw this one, it caught my eye because it looked “alternative.” Searching to discover new Christian music is like that, you kinda have to hunt to find the good stuff. The good stuff doesn’t always make it to the airwaves. This was the freshman disc for these guys together, but I had already collected much of their separate works. Terry Taylor (Daniel Amos, Swirling Eddies) Michael Roe (77’s), Derri Daugherty (The Choir) and Gene Eugene (Adam Again) had already amassed a huge catalog of groundbreaking works of art, but them coming together was something really fresh. This song, and this CD, put me on a path to discover and enjoy a great volume of works that is still unfolding. Having the great privilege of meeting and calling these guys (with the more recent addition of Steve Hindalong) friends is something I would have only dreamed of when I picked up this disc in 1992.

Step By Step / Rich Mullins / The World As Best As I Remember It
This song was originally released in 1991, it continues to be my favorite proclamation of faith.
It seemed to be Rich’s anthem, it’s mine as well.

This was fun for me to do on a rainy Monday. I hope you enjoyed reading it. -Jim



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