Tonight I had to drive downtown to a meeting. All the way downtown. Past the downtown Target, that's how far downtown. North of downtown, which meant that I had some listening time in the offing.
That could have been NPR time, or PRI time, or Q time, but I have to tell you, Linda, that none of that was cutting it for me. It's October, well into autumn now, and for autumn, you need a soundtrack for melancholy. That's just how it is. Those bright days fading to an earlier night: this calls for the music of your youth. Which brings me to you.
I remember driving around town in my folks' station wagon. These were the days, the seventies, when AM radio had music programming. It was the South Bay, Los Angeles, it was the summer before my senior year. I had a serious crush on a boy and that crush was always and forever going to be mostly unrequited. That was the year of your hit "You're No Good," which I liked to sing at the top of my lungs while driving. I liked to pretend that song was me singing to the boy, even though the boy was good. It still made me feel better.
I had the LP and I had the sheet music. I could play and sing the songs on the piano. You didn't write any of them, but your big, generous voice made the songs yours even so.
A couple of years ago I had a hankering to hear the songs again, so I downloaded the album. And a few weeks ago, I read somewhere that you really can't sing anymore--you've lost your voice because of Parkinson's. I don't know how that makes you feel. But tonight, driving north and then home again, I remembered how I felt when your music spoke for me, made the soundtrack to my summer, my teenage heartbreak, and my memories of a gorgeous time when the ocean gleamed on the horizon, my life was ahead of me, and the car radio played songs like yours.
I won't forget you,