Sweet Child o’ Mine: Those music memories that take us back 31



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Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be… sang the lady on the mike. Dazzling in a sequinned dress, she moved from person to person, touching them gently on the shoulder and encouraging them to join in.

“Not this one again,” said the lady sitting next to me, “they always sing the same songs”. Such was my experience on a recent visit to a nursing home. It got me thinking that one day when the kids shuffle me off to an aged care facility, what songs will they be playing then? It won’t be Doris Day, but it could be Jeff Buckley, Nirvana or even Salt-N-Pepa.

Sometimes music can take you back to a time and place. When I hear Sweet Child o’Mine by the Guns and Roses, I’m taken back decades in the blink of an eye. Whenever I hear that song I grin from ear to ear, remembering a high school friend who would dance her best Axl Rose impersonation with arms pinned to her sides as her legs slithering side to side to the beat.

Why do I feel so good when I hear an old favourite and why do I remember so well the music that I loved as a teenager?

Music sparks neural activity. We feel good when we hear our old favourites as they stimulate the brains pleasure circuit, flooding our system with an influx of feel good hormones. As our brains undergo rapid development during our teens years, the music we loved during that decade seems to become hard wired into our brains. Certain songs become connected to certain events, people and places and remain this way in our long term memory. We might remember the song of our first kiss, songs that played on repeat at a friend’s house, songs we danced to at the local night spot and the soundtrack of our favourite movie. We remember so many of these little details as apparently memory storage increases during times of change and growth in personal identity. They call it the reminiscence bump!

Music can tap deep emotional recall, well into our twilight years. Unlike speech and remembering peoples’ faces, which are found in specific parts of the brain, when we listen to music, the brain lights up in many different parts, keeping those specific memories distributed (and saved) all over the brain.

Although I may increasing double guess my passwords, there’s comfort in the thought that some things will remain forever hard wired into my grey matter. Even when I’m 80, I’ll still be able to sing the lyrics…

She’s got a smile that it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky
O, Sweet child o’ mine


What is your most favourite song? What lyrics do you just have to sing when you hear the tune? Tell us below.

Diana Collings

Diana is mother of two and wife of one living in the quiet green of suburban Sydney. She runs art and craft classes at nursing homes and blogs about it at speckled.com.au

  1. Yes Yvonne most of the lyrics were simple, but I was so innocent that I never read between the lines and some of them had hidden messages for sure !!

  2. Another presenter on TYGA-FM hosts an hour-long programme dedicated to residents in a local nursing home.
    With the assistance of staff at the home, they can lodge requests with the station and every effort is made to find and play them.
    Those requests have not been confined to 40s favourites, by a long shot!

  3. It was nice then we could learn the words and not have music drowning everything out including the singer and a love song was just pure joy my favourite was A your Adorable and of course the rest of the alphabet l remember sitting on my swing and singing You R My Sunshine and Look for the Silver Lining l think l was 5 or 6 it was my best memories

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