DR. CUMMINGS: What’s your song?

January 19, 2014 

Do you have one? You know, when this song comes on the radio, you shush everybody and turn up the volume. You hum along -- you know every word -- and memories come tumbling down through your head. You know where you were, who you were with and what you did. You want to hear it again and again. You shut out the world around you and listen as you sway back and forth with the music. The words are great, but even the melody has meaning. It’s your song.

Young lovers today might relate to Adele and her top hit “Rolling in the Deep” or Katy Perry and “Firework.” Several years ago it was “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins and “Escapade” by Janet Jackson or the 1990 film and song “Pretty Woman.” Baby boomers remember: Michael Jackson and his “Rock With You” and finally the Carpenters’ “(They Long To Be) Close To You.”

The delightful thing about “your song” is the indelible connection it has made in your life. It’s almost as if the songwriter had you in mind; he must have. This song is about you. Nobody else could possible relate to it the way you do. It seems every decade has a song that becomes special to certain people, and they treasure it all their lives. I know a charming and talented young woman whose name is Tuesday. Her mother’s favorite song was the Rolling Stones hit “Ruby Tuesday.” Songs can do that to you.

And your song might be a classical piece. Tchaikovsky wrote a 45-minute symphony called the “Serenade for Strings” with four movements, but that second movement is a wild and lively piece of music that could easily become somebody’s song.

In 1967, the top songs were “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees and “Light my Fire” by the Doors, and of course, the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.” It was the year of the hippies, free love and the protests against Vietnam.

But 1967 was also the year a small theater-in-the-round in New York City tried out a new musical. They called it “Man of La Mancha,” the story of the dreamer, Don Quixote, and his song “The Impossible Dream.” There is absolutely no doubt that I was that dreamer.

I had just been hired by TWA, the international airline, as a leadership instructor for its executives in New York. Every week, hundreds of airline men and women flew in from cities around the world to attend classes at our JFK Airport Hangar 14. I was walking down the hallway to my classroom when I saw her. She was sitting in another classroom surrounded by handsome young men from Italy and Spain, chatting and laughing. She was beautiful, and I thought for sure she was Grace Kelly. I was dreaming. Her name was Ann, and she had flown in from our offices in Palo Alto, Calif.

Instructors were strictly forbidden to date students, but I broke that rule. I asked her out the next night, and we took the subway from the airport to downtown Manhattan to a tiny Italian restaurant where I could show off my Italian. Then we walked down a side street to this off-Broadway theater and sat down, holding hands, listening to Don Quixote sing “The Impossible Dream.” When he sang: “This is your quest -- to follow that star,” we knew he was talking about us. That might sound a little corny today, but back then it didn’t. That dream produced a delightful marriage that has lasted all these 47 years. You can’t tell me that song wasn’t written about us.

What’s your song?

View Dr.C.’s leadership videos on www.digitallydrc.com.

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