The fifth in a series of shows called "My Three Songs", where my guest selects three memorable songs and we discuss why those songs are meaningful to them.
This recording includes the full interview but does NOT include licensed music. To hear all episodes including the songs we discuss, please visit AaronsRadio.show.
If you wish to be a guest on the show, please complete the survey on the My Three Songs page on the website.
Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show ... with your host, Aaron Gobler.Aaron Gobler:
Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 15. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is a longtime Radio Show listener, Mamie Lai. We met through a Zoom class that our personal trainer Jacob runs ... shout-out to Jacob. Hi, Mamie, I'm so glad Jacob recommended we connect regarding the radio show. How are you today?Mamie Lai:
I'm good. It's a hot day. So I'm inside with air conditioning. So this is a good time to do this.Aaron Gobler:
Okay, I want to thank you for being on My Three Songs. I know you've been listening to the Radio Show from its humble beginnings in March. And I want to know, what made you decide to be on the show now?Mamie Lai:
Well, I was intrigued. First of all, that you thought that someone at this point in our lives could choose only three songs. There's so many out there. There's so many that I like. And so I wanted to see if I could do it as like how hard can it be to choose three songs, right? But it took me ever since your first offer. It took me over a month to sort things out; at first I wasn't gonna do it. Because I didn't have time. But then as time went on, and I saw that other people were starting to be your guests. I thought okay, let me try. So I did it by decade first. And then I picked my favorites for the decade. And then to narrow it down to these three. I chose songs that represented a significant period in my life or periods. So I thought I thought it'd be a nice challenge. And then since you mentioned, this doesn't have to be the only three songs someday it might be other three songs I felt. Okay, what's the big deal?Aaron Gobler:
When I thought about changing to this kind of format. I wish I originally thought about the three favorite songs. But somebody asked me what what are my three favorite songs? And I'm like, that's I don't know if I could do that. So it really is like what you're describing. It's three meaningful songs. And yeah, you can come back again and give us another three. So before we get started, uh, can you tell me something about how music fits into your life? Like, is it an integral part of your day? Or like, is it just kind of background music?Mamie Lai:
Well, it depends on what part of my life I'm in. Right now, it can be be background, if I'm cooking, or driving or working on a project where I have to spend a lot of time. But music has meant different things to me throughout different parts of my life. I mean, I started out in my childhood with church songs and military songs because my Dad was in the service before he married my mom, or cheery songs that my mother sang to us. And then music turned into you know, performance with orchestra violins singing in the choir. But then in the 60s, music became background, but also, for me, it was like opening the door to another world because we had been forbidden to listen to anything but what I felt was boring music. And I really wasn't interested in music. But then I started hearing soul music and the Beatles and the Stones and all that we still couldn't listen to it in our home. So my brothers and I had to figure out how to sneak listen to it. And these radio stations I told you about KYA and KFRC were the popular stations of the day. And so when my mother and father used to go shopping for groceries, we switched from cable, the cable and the boring cable radio channel, and we'd switch to these pop stations and listen to the music so we'd become familiar with it. And so throughout the rest of like the 60s, we learned about music that way. And when I got into the 70s then I started learning about music in different ways. And we can go into it with, you know, with my selection. So now I mean, even though music seems to be a background part of my life, I'm always looking to add to my playlist. I mean, when I meet new people, when I renew my relationships with the people who are in my life, we always ask what what do you listen to, we share music. And when I hear something new, then I like to play it either right away or later on. And with all of these developments with, you know, how to share your music ... Spotify. Oh, how to capture music ...Shazam, I'm able to hear something I don't know. And identify it quickly. And then listen to related music. I mean, it's, it's a great, I think is a great time we're in right now to be able to expand my music horizon.Aaron Gobler:
Yeah, I agree. I mean, you don't have to go into the record store anymore and try to sing or hum a song or, or it's give the lyrics without any kind of, you know, melody or anything. So I know, I did that plenty of times, and is a little bit embarrassing. So and, yeah, it is. It's true. It's, a wonderful time, to just be able to, like you said, you know, find something that you like that you've never heard before, even and then find a lot of stuff that's in that same vein. So it is a great time. So, Mamie, you selected three fantastic songs, I'm going to list the titles and artists, and then we'll experience each song and we'll talk a little bit about it. So your songs are way "Oye Como Va", by Santana, from 1971; "Respect", by Aretha Franklin, from 1965; and "Love On the Brain", by Rihanna from 2016. Now, two of these songs are real classics. And the other one is when I never heard until you recommended it to me a few months ago. This is an interesting group of songs, and I'm really eager to hear your stories about them. So first, let's take a listen to "Oye Como Va" by Santana. Mamie, I feel like this is one of those songs I can listen to every day and not get tired of it. I'm sure everyone who lived through the 70s has heard this song. So why is it? Why was the song meaningful for you?Mamie Lai:
Well, it was a departure from the mainstream pop and rock that I've been listening to up to then. And I had started taking Spanish classes in junior high school and into high school and this ... Santana became popular during actually my undergraduate years at Berkeley, so you know, in college, but the Latin fusion jazz beat was just something that was new to me. And I really liked it. And whenever you hear the opening licks, it starts the memory train rolling for those years when I was studying Spanish and also when I was living in Spain for graduate studies. And so it was a period of intellectual and personal freedom and growth for me and expansion of my music interest. My exposure to Spanish music previously had been the traditionals. And I can't call them out right now. I remember Eydie Gorme may being a representative of someone who could sing in Spanish. I think she has a Spanish background or Hispanic background. And maybe "Besame Mucho" ... like that ... weren't as interesting to me as the beats that I was hearing in this kind of music. I mean, I just loved it. And a bonus is that, you know how they had the flip side. The flip side usually had throwaway songs, but this one this one had a favorite of mine... "Samba Pa Ti", and it had no lyrics, but it was also a great beat. And, you know, with all the instruments that Santana put into it, I later heard it played on jazz sax by this artist named Gato Barbieri, so I just say this was a real bonus that to have two songs of the same era on the same record, you know how we couldn't afford to buy records in in you know, back in the day this one was all on one record.Aaron Gobler:
That's a great story. Yeah, usually the B-side is like you're saying that song they don't think it's gonna make it anywhere. And so do you still hear this in the background wherever you are like if you're in a store if you hear this song? ...Mamie Lai:
I do actually when I'm when I'm going I'm doing my business now sometimes it just pops up and I feel like shouting "turn it up!" because when ... I mean I can put it on anytime at home here I'm gonna do I turn it up as loud as I can you know yeah great it's a great song to be heard. You know that as loud as it can be heard.Aaron Gobler:
Yeah, yeah. And I feel like it does have its crescendo; it builds up and has a crescendo and it has the energy level changes through it. And yeah, what a wonderful song, a timeless song. I think it's it just can just last ... it just lasts through the years. The next song in your list is another super big classic, Aretha Franklin's "Respect". So let's take a listen to that, and then we'll talk about it on the other side. Now, this song is iconic, and its title is also the title of a movie about Aretha Franklin that just came out. Franklin and this song are undeniably indelible parts of Americana. What inspired you to add this song to your list?Mamie Lai:
I think it's another timeless song for all of the social themes that represents women's liberation, self respect. And throughout the years, I mean, she, she sang it in 1965. And every time with what's happening on the political landscape, especially for women, it's relevant. You know what she's talking about. It's a reminder to me throughout my life to command, demand and expect the respect ... to me it's inspiring. It's got a lot of energy ... her story is, is a strong story. I haven't seen the biopic yet. But I've read snippets of her biography over the years. I just like it, every time I hear it, I drop what I'm doing. And I guess, you know, I have I have so many favorite soul music songs from over the years. And I especially like the group names, you know, the Temptations, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, all that. And when I hear "Respect", I think of all those years where I enjoyed, you know, the film music years, in addition to the social themes, and if you listen to her, her voice to it's very strong. You know, it's an assertive, strong, confident voice, singing this all these lyrics. And that's very inspiring.Aaron Gobler:
Yeah. And there's a song she does called "Think", which I was first introduced to through the Blues Brothers Movie, which is also in a similar vein in terms of the intention and power of her voice in that song. It's in a similar theme, as this.Mamie Lai:
It is, and "Respect", I think we didn't have the same reaction to think that I did with "Respect" is probably because it's been in my life for so long.Aaron Gobler:
The last song in your set is "Love On the Brain", by Rihanna, and this is a more recent tune; this is from 2016. And I again, I mentioned earlier that you introduced me to this song a few months ago. And I'm really glad to include it in the show. So let's give it a listen. And we'll talk about it in a moment. Mamie, as I mentioned, you recommended this song to me after I included the song "Umbrella" on an earlier episode. And after I listened to the song, I went back and listened to the entire album called "Anti". And it's a really, really good. I had Rihanna in my mind as kind of like a single-maker. But I enjoyed the entire album. And then just now when I'm listening to it, I'm thinking it sounds a lot like Amy Winehouse in that kind of style. So uh, why is the song on your list? And do you recall like your reaction when you first heard it?Mamie Lai:
I'll answer the second question first, because the first question is a much longer answer. Okay. So when I first heard this, I think I must have I might have been driving and I had a pop music station on and I heard and I thought, Who is this? It's like, why is the beat you know? 1-2-3-4-5-6. It was a Viennese Waltz, and I hadn't heard ... there's probably other pop music artists who have some, uh, you know, using the beat, but it's like, and then when I found that was Rihanna, just like Rihanna. I mean, I'm used to hearing like, you know, "What's My Name?", "Only Girl in the World", "Rude Boy" ... and what is this? Right? So, I mean, I was blown away. I mean, I really do like her as as you can see. So then I looked it up on Wikipedia. And because I wanted to figure out why I liked it so much, and I figured it was the way the music was put together. And so so they that "Love on the Brain's instrumentation as guitar arpeggio, swirling organ, simple chord progression, syncopated strings and orchestra. The song has themes of swinging back and forth between the highs and lows of toxic love.". And when I read that, I said to myself, yeah, all that. All that that's why I liked the song so much. I understand. I understand those terms. But when I describe why I like a song, I wouldn't be able to bring that up, because that's not my life. You know. And her voice range too. I mean, you hear her sing that really high. I mean, it's, it's very, it's mesmerizing. I mean, I just want ... I just love it.Aaron Gobler:
Yeah. Yeah, she pulls it off really well. It's a really beautiful song. And, and it's, as you're describing, the dissection of the song that you read in Wikipedia, I think it's almost like eating a wonderful entree or dessert, and then finding what's in the recipe and saying, Oh, now I know why that tastes so good.Mamie Lai:
Yeah, yeah. And I don't have that kind of reaction to very many songs that I hear. And I like, so I thought it was extra special. Because of that. Sometimes it's nice to just like something and not know, not know the reason why. But I was just extra curious because of all those components. This This song is a symbol of my abilities to do things I never thought I was capable of doing. When I grew up. Growing up as a child, I was a child of an immigrant family very sheltered, always being told no, because of my birth position, or gender in the family, my race or my size. And dancing was not part of my childhood growing up like it is with some of my, some of the people I met in my life. They weren't my peers at the time, because my peers at the time didn't do any kind of dancing either. But I started taking ballroom dance in 1998 after my first husband died, because he died so suddenly, and I was thinking, what am I waiting for to do the things I want to do? I want to travel, I want to learn how to dance, I want to do this and that. I mean, I didn't go totally nuts. But I started taking ballroom dancing. And for the next couple years, I learned, you know, the suite of ballroom dances, whether it was the formal like the Waltz in the Foxtrot night, and the Viennese Waltz was included in it. Even though I couldn't execute the dance well, because it takes a lot of stamina, to cover a swath of ballroom, you know, for the duration of the song because of the beat, you have to keep up with the beat. And I don't know if you've watched Dancing with the Stars, but it's an undertaking. I've always liked to beat. And I also learned during those years, the ballroom dance years, how to recognize a song by the beat, you know, so they start playing something and they say, oh, that's like, you know, Salsa. But that's Rumba. That's something else, you know, that's false. And I didn't think I would ever have that kind of ability. I didn't think I didn't have it. But it was a surprise to me to be able to just recognize it right off-the-top, because I stopped taking lessons in 2004, 2005. And I didn't hear this to 2016. So I didn't think I retained anything. You know, so this is this realization Oh, I can still do it, you know. And so I went back to actually taking dance dance lessons in 2012. And this is after, after my divorce from my second husband, and ... a lot of personal information ... but still significant periods of my life where music and dance play a big part. And when I already started doing that, again, I still didn't take Viennese because you have to wear high heels and I'm all over, you know, I'm over that. I'm not doing high heels anymore. So I started doing swing and Lindy Hop and tap dance instead. But still, the point is that I remember the stuff ... I learned this stuff. I remembered it and it didn't matter what my background was, I was able to do these things. So it's more like a you know, me with a woman liberation type thing or an independence type thing is a personal, small personal victory for me. That I don't necessarily share with my friends because it's small. And I'm not going to go through all of this, like I am on this radio show. Okay, that's the long answer.Aaron Gobler:
Well, thank you for those stories. Thank you for that, you know, I appreciate you going into into a personal explanation as to how this, this particular song brings back so much for you. Is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections? How they some connective tissue between them or? or does something that I didn't ask you about about any one of them?Mamie Lai:
I think the connective tissue, you know, in addition to the memories is I've chosen songs with unique beats, strong beats, or inspiring uplifting type songs. I mean, I feel happy when I hear all three songs. It's just it, even though it may conjure up, you know, down periods or or whatever, in my life. I just loved the music of the period.Aaron Gobler:
Yeah, I appreciate you making this list. Because it has these real personal connections to you. And it does bring it does bring up emotions. And in this case, you said good thoughts when you hear these songs. I want to thank you again. I had a lot of fun today.Mamie Lai:
I did too. It was fun.Aaron Gobler:
Thank you. And I want to say to my listeners, if you want to be part of this show, and start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show, and clicking on the My three songs button on the homepage. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.Female voice:
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