In 2007 Rolling Stone’s writer Rob Sheffield wrote his memoir, “Love is a Mixtape: Life and Loss One Song at A Time”. The concept was simple, 22 chapters written around 22 mix tapes. The content was not: grief, love, and a relationship that ended far too soon when his wife, Renee, unexpectedly died of a pulmonary embolism.
Rob listens to mixtapes, lots of mixtapes, and he takes us back to the days when we created mixtapes for every mood and every moment. The “You Like Music, I Like Music, I Can Tell Were Going to Be Friends” mixtape, the Break-Up mixtape, mixtapes for dancing and doing the dishes and falling asleep. Through his 22 tapes he reveals to us his deep grief, his incredible memories, and shows us how their love of music inadvertently turns into the music of their love…and life…and loss.
When I was in high school we used boom boxes and cassettes. I have such vivid memories of the hours I spent combing through my music library, trying to create the perfect playlist. And when I didn’t have that perfect song? Listening to the radio and waiting to push record at just the right moment to capture it. I had to choose my songs wisely because I only had so much room and OH THE FRUSTRATION when Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ got cut off because Side A ran out. Gone are the days of the mixtape, replaced now by CDs and iTunes, but the emotions behind a well-crafted playlist are still the same.
Like Sheffield says, “…there are all kinds of mixtapes. There is always a reason to make one.” Before someone important to you died, you may only have had reason to make “Pump It Up: Gym Mix Tape #1”; but now the occasions are endless…
The songs on these playlists are the soundtrack of our grief – a soundtrack that we replay over and over because it helps us remember and it helps us to feel.
Create your own play list. It can make all the difference. In the words of Peter Rollins, who put it far more eloquently that we could ever hope to, ”No matter how great a song is it cannot raise the dead, cure cancer or make your lost lover return. Music does not change the world you live in, reverse time or change history. It does not promise snake oil solutions to life’s woes. But music is anything but impotent; indeed it can be experienced as one of the most potent forces in our universe. For music can assist us in changing the way that we interact with the world we live in. Great music can help us to affirm life, embrace it, face it and sublimate it. In other words music can help sensitize us to, and celebrate, the life that we participate in.”