Freud’s Got Nothing on Ray Charles

Freud’s Got Nothing on Ray Charles

When I was asked to do a guest blog about music, I couldn’t wait to take part. The following essay was actually featured on a good friend’s wonderful music blog in July 2013. However, when he decided to end his blog last year, it meant all of his own insightful content disappeared along with it, and that included his guest blogs, too. So I’ve decided that this essay deserves a home, and that home should be my website. You can also hear me read this essay out on AudioBoom. Just click here for that audio version.

Music is a big deal in my world. If it is in yours, too, well, then, I hope that you enjoy this love letter to one of my favorite things. And feel free to chime in with your comments about the music that shaped your world, maybe even changed your life. I’d love to hear from you.  Happy reading!   x  ~ chris

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I have to be honest. When Daniel asked me if I would be willing to reciprocate and write a guest entry for his music blog, I think my tummy did a little cartwheel inside. Seriously. I love music. I love movies, too, and most people know that I talk about them a lot, as well as TV, but every moment of my life is layered with music. I’ve never gone a day without finding myself somewhere hearing my own soundtrack as I witness events unfold. Since I was a kid, I’ve been this way. I thought this made me a little nutty. And then I meet up with folks like Daniel, and I realize I’m not the only one.


If movies are my how-to manual to usher me through the various joys and pitfalls of life, then music is my therapist. I joke all the time on Twitter about the little spontaneous rock block video posts that sprout up on my Timeline serving as my music therapy, but it’s true. I may be starting to get a reputation on the platform as an amateur Martha Quinn but what tweeps are really witnessing is a very moody, emotional scribe finding an alternative to either bouncing off of the walls of her home office (quite literally) or averting a meltdown altogether. Without hesitation, I would forego the most proven prescription meds and highly acclaimed psychoanalysts to turn instead to my favorite musicians and songwriters to make some sense out of the world.


I can’t remember a time when music wasn’t in my life. My parents tell me that as a toddler I would stand up in the front middle seat of the car dancing and singing along to the Jackson Five. (We won’t delve into the obvious question – why the hell were my parents leaving me in such a vulnerable spot to projectile out of the car windshield?) I have distinct childhood memories of hearing the likes of Ramsey Lewis, Sly Stone, Ray Charles and Chicago blaring out of our living room stereo and being mesmerized as I watched my dad pile on as many as six records at a time on the turntable, the vinyl perched high above whatever delectable tune was spinning below. I learned the real value of a penny from him – to weigh down the needle when you had a particularly sensitive LP. And most of all, I learned that you could overcome anything – heartache, disappointment, failure, sadness – all in the course of listening to precisely the right Side A or B.


My first adult album I ever purchased was Greatest Hits by Elton John (his first volume). I still remember riding my bicycle down to the record shop several blocks away from our house, flipping through the J tab of artists, finding it and studying it carefully to make sure that my copy was in pristine condition, and then eagerly forking over what had to be several weeks’ allowance to make that milestone purchase. How I managed to get it home in one piece hitting potholes and jettisoning off curbs is beyond my memory but I remember listening to it for the first time and shutting my eyes, perhaps thinking that by doing so I might transport myself into “grown-up land,” because I could not wait to get there. Now, I wish I hadn’t been in such a hurry.


But even as the flavors and textures of the music I listened to changed throughout my childhood and teen years — from Bee Gees and ELO to Duran Duran and REM — its role remained the same. This very insecure, pudgy, smart nerdy girl couldn’t count on the boys calling and wasn’t quite sure which friends really “got” her, but the one thing she knew for certain: the right music could reflect exactly what she felt and soothe those emotions like nothing else. When Olivia belted out “you have to believe, we are magic,” the hopeful but doubting idealist wanted so much to believe that anything was possible, even when teasing on the school playground demonstrated otherwise. When she heard A-Ha’s “The Sun Always Shines on TV,” she wanted to melt and kiss that crush of hers so hard on the lips, he wouldn’t be able to stand up for days. Of course, the shy girl didn’t. When Asia poured out “The Smile Has Left Her Eyes,” she nearly wept every time as she thought about her dream guy asking out that girl Angie instead of her.


Things haven’t changed all that much nearly 30 years later. Still insecure, still pudgy, still nerdy…hopefully, a little smarter… and I still turn to music when I’m feeling lost, wistful or angry. Better to channel those feelings elsewhere, I tell myself, and set out like a prospector to mine the perfect lyrics, melody and decibel level to fix what feels broken in that moment. Music will always be on the page of any chapter of my life. Heck, one of the first things I did when writing my book was work up a playlist. Before I even finished the last line of the book, I knew what song I imagined playing in the background during that final scene.


I can’t go a day without listening to music somewhere in my travels and why should I? Food, water, shelter…and music. Once I’ve got the basics, I’ve got all that I need.


  1. I see aLOT of me in the words you write so eloquently about. Truth is I don’t remember my first album. I have picked over my brain way to much to answer that question correctly. The title of your blog post caught my attention…I don’t like Mr.Freud so Music wins. It does what nothing else can -moves people of all cultures.
    I remember Daniel and that special blog post. Seems like a million years ago. Miss him, the blog and friendships.
    I concur, music is life.

    • chriskuhn

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read my essay and sharing your own thoughts on music. Yes, I couldn’t agree more… music is life. It marks our journey and leads us on to the next phase of it. I’m so glad you enjoyed learning about my own musical trek. ~ Chris xo


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