Cliche alert: music has been a big part of our life together.
The night we went to the Old Courthouse to hear Tom Peteet give a speech to the Teach for America corps, when an acquaintance spilled the beans that our planned trip to the Botanical Gardens to see the Chihuly exhibit was an eagerly anticipated “date,” and that I was being referred to in Stephanie’s social circle as “that guy Stephanie likes,” I had on headphones when Stephanie first saw me. I had taken the bus from my house, and was listening to Doug Sahm. I offered the headphones, and she obligingly listened to a snippet of “(Is Anybody Going to) San Antone”.
In the weeks that followed, she listened to the highlights of a stack of CDs on the night of the last day of school, we sat in my car in Kirkwood and gushed about the scene in The Royal Tenenbaums when Margot and Richie sit and listen to the first side of the American version of Between the Buttons, and talked about the first times we had heard Sufjan Stevens’ Come on, Feel the Illinoise.
Living long distances from each other for our first year together, we listened to Otis Redding on the phone together, I sent her mix tapes, and she sent me mix CDs. She introduced me to iTunes and I fussed through and organized and (correctly) relabeled her songs. I went to hear her cant at Vespers at Emmanuel, and she discovered that she would, in fact, hear me sing at Evangelical. Music, to repeat the cliche, has been important to us.
Because we are choosing to have a traditional Episcopal wedding ceremony, we are limited in the role music will play in the ceremony itself, but we both want music to help tie together the community that will gather for our wedding. We may use piano arrangements of songs at the church, we will certainly have a spotlight dance, and we will try to be thoughtful about the music that plays at the reception and, possibly, at the rehearsal dinner. Some of the songs that we have discussed for different roles in our wedding are below. For the reception, we want to hear what suggestions people have, and I really want to have that be some part of the RSVP to the invitations. We’ll see. Anyway, here are my thoughts on some of these songs.
“I Believe (When I Fall in Love With You, It Will Be Forever)” by Stevie Wonder
This is such a beautiful song, but Stevie, bless his genius heart, saw fit to give the song a number of keys and tempos, and I am not sure we’ll be able to make this work as a spotlight dance. It will certainly be played at some point over the weekend. You can count on that.
Without despair, we will share,
and the joys of caring will not be replaced.
“Bernadette,” by the Four Tops
Oh, this song brings us such joy! Levi Stubbs is not playing, at all, when he is proclaiming his love for Bernadette. From the times we played this song, talked about this song, danced to this song, especially our first year together, this song has one of the clearest claims to be “Our Song.”
Some go on searchin’ their whole life through,
and never find the love I’ve found in you
“California Stars,” by Billy Bragg & Wilco
A leading candidate for our honeymoon destination is the Sonoma County wine country in California. We have loved this song together for a long while, and I have a vision of it being our last dance of the reception. How awesome would that be?
So I’d give the world
just to dream a dream with you
on our bed of California stars.
“Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens
I’ve written, often, about this song. I am not even really sure why I like it so much. But certainly part of it is that it brings so many memories of Stephanie to mind: the trip to Boulder, being almost home again from Canada, the surprise visit and Sufjan Stevens concert, the trip to visit Chicago that last winter in St. Louis…
I fell in love again,
(all things ‘go,’ all things ‘go’)
drove to Chicago,
(all things know, all things know)
“Sons and Daughters,” by the Decembrists
I have a vision of Stephanie and our friend Ben singing this song at a coffeehouse at the Pub, leading the students of Union in a singalong of the coda: “Hear all the bombs fade away…” Stephanie is convinced that my temples naturally smell of cinnamon. No one else has ever noticed, but she swears to it.
We’ll make our homes on the water.
We’ll build our walls (aluminum),
we’ll fill our mouths with cinnamon.
“This Will Be Our Year,” by OK, Go
Wouldn’t this be a great recessional on piano? As we walk hand in hand out of the church?
The warmth of your love’s
like the warmth of the sun,
and this will be our year,
took a long time to come.
“Bright As Yellow,” by the Innocence Mission
If we didn’t go the R&B route, this may be my preference for a spotlight dance. It is just so gorgeous, and the statement of joy and vitality in the lyrics is very appropriate for us.
I do not wish to be a rose,
I do not wish to be pale pink,
but flower scarlet, flower gold
and have no thorns to distance me.
“This Magic Moment,” by the Drifters
This is not, particularly, a “Stephanie and Matt” song. I have loved it ever since I got the Atlantic Rhythm & Blues box. But it is indubitably one of the iconic romantic statements of American popular culture. So, so good.
Everything I want, I have
whenever I hold you tight.
“Lay Lady Lay,” by Bob Dylan
Stephanie said that she was embarrassed at her lack of knowledge of Dylan when she met me. I can’t hold that against anyone, since my embarrassing lack of knowledge of Dylan extended well into my 20s. This, though, and the whole Nashville Skyline album, brings to my mind memories of our first year apart. I think I put this on the first mix tape I made for Stephanie.
Why wait any longer for the one you love
when he’s standing in front of you?
“Sweet Jane,” by the Cowboy Junkies
More of a dark horse candidate for spotlight song. Another gorgeous song that wouldn’t show up my manifold deficiencies as a dancer.
Anyone who’s ever had a heart
wouldn’t turn around and break it.
“Happy Song,” by Otis Redding
One of several Otis Redding songs that we like to listen to together. Sometimes, if I am feeling relaxed enough, I even sing along.
When I sing this song,
singing it for my baby.
She’s the only one, can bring me joy.
“Sha-la-la (Make Me Happy)” by Al Green
You really can’t go wrong with Al Green, much like Otis Redding–he’s a slam dunk. The problem is, he’s almost expected. “Let’s Stay Together” is wonderful, but while we are not trying to be too hip, we don’t think we have enough of a personal Al Green connection to pull off using it prominently. Maybe we could use “Make Me Happy,” though
It’s something that just gets down in your bones,
and once I see you I can’t leave your love alone.
“Such Great Heights” by Iron & Wine
We really like both the Iron & Wine and the Postal Service versions of this song, but for me at least, I think this would be my preferred version. I also feel like this would be good in a piano arrangement.
I am thinking it’s a sign
that the freckles in our eyes
are mirror images
and when we kiss, they’re perfectly aligned.
Obviously, there are a whole slew of other songs we might want to use. Just off the top of my head, I can think of “She Smiled Sweetly,” “No Lonesome Tune,” “Let Me Touch You for Awhile,” and “Girl.” Any thoughts?