Songs with stories, signs

During my half-hour commute to work, I hear a lot of songs. My 14-year-old, Bimmeny Blue Tempo is too archaic to have a CD player, so I listen to the radio, switching back and forth from station to station, hoping I don’t miss a song I like. If I hear a song multiple times in a row — one that isn’t Rhianna’s “Umbrella” or some other rap song that is good but far too overplayed — I start paying careful attention to the lyrics. It must be a sign, I think. Maybe the song is trying to tell me something about my life, about relationships, about something I don’t have the guts to speak but can sing.The two songs that I keep hearing on my travels to and from work are:

“Love is a Battlefield” by Pat Benetar

Selected lyrics: “We are young, heartache to heartache we stand/ No promises, no demands/ Love is a battlefield/ We are strong, no one can tell us we’re wrong/ Searching our hearts for so long, both of us knowing love is a battlefield.”

“Talking in Your Sleep” by the Romantics (Please, if you don’t do anything else, check out the hair on the guys in this video.)

Selected lyrics: “When you close your eyes and go to sleep/ And it’s down to the sound of a heartbeat,/ I can hear the things that  you’re dreaming about/ When you open up your heart and the truth comes out/ I hear the secrets that you keep when you’re talking in your sleep.”

I have to laugh because really, how much more random could it get? But then I think, maybe the songs aren’t so random, maybe there’s some meaning to them. Songs, for me, help me remember my own story. When I listen to Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You,” I’m reminded of my mom, who dedicated the song to me before she passed away 11 years ago. The song comes on the radio at the most interesting times — generally when I’m searching for guidance or advice.

When I hear “Lean on Me,” I’m reminded of stories of friendship. My best friend from home, Linsey, and I sang this song during a talent show senior year. We were the closing act, and we were so proud to be up there on stage together, belting it out in front of the senior class. Whenever I hear it on the radio, I can’t help but think of Linsey and my other friends, without whom my story would suffer.

When “Don’t Stop Believing” comes on the radio, I’m reminded of my own journey through life and that of all the others who share my love for this song …

Lately, I’ve been listening a lot to KT Tunstall’s “Heal Over.” It reminds me of recuperating from life’s rough patches, and finding the strength to move on.

As for “Love is a Battlefield?” Well, the statement is definitely true. As for whether this song is a “sign” of some sort, I’m not sure. And what about “Talking in Your Sleep?” I’ve been told I chitchat incessently while sleeping, and I’ve even woken myself up sometimes from soliloquizing too loudly. Maybe it’s a sign I better keep to my six-inch voice so my neighbors don’t come knocking on the door in the middle of the night. I forget how thin these apartment walls are sometimes …

I’m curious to hear about songs that you think tell good stories. What songs make you think of the story you want to tell?

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

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