Genealogy – the Musical or Music from the Grateful Dead

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is 
impossible to be silent.”  Victor Hugo

My son Brandon has a curse talent – he can remember practically anything put to music. Catchy jingles and songs, especially from commercials – play on a continuous loop, even while he sleeps.

Elder Brandon Elkins (on left) now serving in the Texas San Antonio Mission, Spanish Speaking.
You would think this would be a benefit when learning to play an instrument like the piano…not so. He would memorize things after hearing them once and never bothered to learn to read the notes, much to the chagrin of his mom and frustration to his music teacher.

He inherited this “gift” from his grandfather, James Brown no, not the godfather of soul – the other one!

My dad loves music and he has very eclectic tastes. He enjoys listening to Hawaiian music, Native American Music and pan pipe music and that’s just in one day…seriously, don’t get me started! My earliest memories of my father of him of hearing him come home – jingling a pocket full of coins, or whistling or humming or singing. There was always music playing in the house or in the car and when he wasn’t doing that, he was cleaning his beloved LP’s – that’s a very large CD for those who are too young to know!

My grandfather, Samuel Thomas Brown played the fiddle, the mandolin, the banjo, the guitar and the harmonica. Music is in our blood and has accompanied our lives. Feeling down – got a song for that! Feeling happy – got a song for that too!
Music has a way to transport us back in time or to create or recreate a mood or feeling. We just had the Oscars and those who create a musical score are honored for helping to tell the story of the movie.

Consider the music of our ancestors. What musical score would you use to tell their story? Would you have the bagpipes from Scotland or the fiddles from Appalachia to bring their history to life? In my case both!

Itunes is a place where you can purchase a tune at a time to use in slideshows of your family ancestors. Check out internet radio sites like GrooveShark or Pandora which let you search not only by artist, but also by genre. Don’t overlook as a source for oldies but goodies.<p><p><p><p><p><p><p></iframe</p></p></p></p></p></p></p>

I recently found some Bluegrass gospel groups that were around long time before video, but slideshows have been created with their music to enjoy today.This particular music makes me very nostalgic for the days of being trapped in the car on  a long trip with dad at the radio controls. I thought the Bluegrass ‘music’ I was subjected to was cruel and unusual punishment. Imagine my surprise when years later, I found myself purchasing the soundtrack to Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? and not only because it brought back memories – but because I actually enjoyed it!

Interviewing grandma or Uncle Billy soon? Put on some old, favorite music softly playing in the background to help stimulate the long-term memory for those long forgotten tidbits. Even for those who suffer with Alzheimer’s Disease have been known to have moments of clarity when hearing an old familiar tune. Michael Ballam, opera singer, professor of music and lecturer has wonderful stories of this happening.

I know that it works – play Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and I am instantly transported to a junior high gym, praying that for the next 8:03 minutes of music I will be in the arms of someone I wished – rather than the sweaty, shuffling adolescent that I usually was asked to dance with, I know, oh the trauma! But 8:03 is forever when you are that age!

Burn a CD of your favorite music, the ones that stir up the memories of the past and add it to your family history collection. Music will help you be grateful for your dead even if it is the Grateful Dead.


  1. It is always fun to hear my sister’s memories of our family. The music I remember playing in our house not only came from Dad but also my sister’s! Dad had moved on from the blue grass stuff and headed toward BROADWAY! Thanks for sharing sis. Love ya
    Jenny and the Jets(music by Sir Elton John lyric change by Jenny Brown)

  2. Valerie, Music is a huge trigger for memories in my life. I loved this post! I have been wanting to do a project that ties in the songs of my life with my memories. I love your blog!

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