Tell me about your theme songs!

July 1, 2014 | 70 comments

I’m co-hosting The Lino Rulli Show on SiriusXM while Lino’s in Austin this week, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to let you all do the talking!

As a special treat for this week, I’ve saved a question I’ve wanted to ask you all forever: What are your theme songs?

What I mean by “theme song” is a song that reminds you vividly of a specific time in your life. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a favorite song, or even a song whose lyrics you find perfectly edifying — just a song that you will forever connect to a specific memory.

This is a great way for me to discover new music, because I have this weird quirk where I tend to like a song more when I know it’s meaningful to someone else. I’ll begin by sharing a few of mine:

WRITING THE BOOK: Viva la Vida by Coldplay

(If you’re reading this on email, click through to see videos of the songs.)

I first heard this song around the time I began writing Something Other than God. The song is about a person who once wanted to rule the world, and now sees that all of his “important” accomplishments are ultimately meaningless, so it was the perfect writing music for this story. I have always thought of it as the book’s official theme song, and every time I hear it I think of the crazy, wonderful, absurd process of writing the book.

THE NICU: Lover of the Light by Mumford and Sons

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, 2013 was a tough year for us: I was diagnosed with bilateral pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in both lungs) during my sixth pregnancy. Even after I got back from the hospital,  I could hardly function because I couldn’t breathe well. When the baby was born, he had tears in his lungs — unrelated to my own condition — and ended up getting transferred to a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where he stayed for almost two weeks.

I’ve mentioned that one of the big issues is that we couldn’t hold the baby for the first few days of his life, and that that was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever gone through.

One night, at around 11:30 PM, I was making the 30-minute drive from my house to the NICU, and Mumford and Sons’ Lover of the Light came on the radio. The lyrics Breathe in / breathe out jumped out at me, since not being able to breathe seemed to be a theme of the year in our family. But when they broke into that crescendo where they belt out,  Love the one you hold, the image of holding someone you love hit me right in the gut. I started sobbing so hard that I had to pull the car over.

It’s ultimately a positive memory since the baby and I both recovered, but every time I hear that song it puts me right back on Parmer Lane in Austin, driving my car through tears, late at night, to visit the baby whom I couldn’t hold.

BELIEVING IN GOD: King Without A Crown by Matisyahu

In late 2005, I had come to believe that God exists, but I didn’t know where to go from there. I felt completely lost, yet hopeful against all odds that somehow this would work out.

We were living at my mom’s house, and my only child, then one year old, never slept through the night. I woke up one morning, utterly exhausted, and quickly flipped on the television in hopes of finding something that would entertain my son. I happened to switch it to MTV, and they were playing the video for King Without A Crown by Matisyahu. I was fascinated to see a religious song on the station, and completely intrigued by the idea of an orthodox Jewish rapper.

When I heard the words THANK YOU TO MY GOD THAT I FINALLY GOT IT RIGHT, my heart instantly and unexpectedly swelled with joy. I still had more questions than I had answers, but in that moment I was sure that this God this was going to work out. Like Matisyahu, it felt like after a life of searching, I had finally gotten it right.

. . .

Now I’d love to hear about your theme songs! Tell us the name of the song, the artist, and the story of what it’s meaningful to you.

. . .


  1. Marilyn

    I love Viva da Vida as well, now I’ll always connect it to your book as well! My main theme songs are U2’s Beautiful Day which was the song my husband and I choose for when we first introduced as husband and wife at our wedding reception, and I’ve always loved Coldplay’s Yellow.

    I was listening to Yellow when I rediscovered the joy of writing in my 20s, so that flavours it for me, plus the line, “You’re skin and bones, turning into something beautiful” always gave me a sense of something about God’s grace transforming us, something of creation and the incarnation and the miracle of birth, God enlivening the ‘dust’ of matter.

  2. Lee

    I think Coldplay must make very good theme music. Two Coldplay albums “Parachutes” and “A Rush of Blood to the Head” are the soundtrack to my college years. A friend burned me copies of both discs (yes, it was CDs back then) and gave them to me with a “hey, thought you might like this”. I listened to them constantly over the next two years as I spent countless hours studying in the lab and coffee shops. To this day I still listen to that music when I really want to focus and complete something. I associate them with difficult (but satisfying) work and the thrill of completing such work.
    A few years later, my husband and I were trying to chose a song for our first dance at our wedding. The Alicia Keys song “No One” had just come out. I thought it was perfect for us, but my husband is more of a classic rock guy. In the end we chose another song, but now when I hear “No One” I’m pulled back to the happiness of that day and the jittery feelings of being a bride.

  3. Kelly M.

    Coldplay theme music? *raises hand*
    Thanks for giving me a post idea for today, although now I’m feeling all sentimental. The kids are getting lots of hugs today: WATCH OUT!

  4. Gina

    “When I die young” was the song I played on loop during my first of the (only 2) allnighters I pulled in college. I ended up acing the biochemistry final I was studying for, and the song reminds me about that long night and makes me happy that I got through college without a lot more sleepless nights (most of my friends were pulling at least one allnighter a week, so it was seen as the norm)

  5. Hevel

    I think I have a playlist for my life. 😀
    For anything faith or religion related I also have a Matisyahu song: The acoustic version of “Silence”. I was trying to decide whether to even bother renewing our synagogue membership a few years ago when I first heard this version.

    For things related to Israeli internal and US politics, social justice, or the way I and the rest of the LGBTQ community is treated the theme song is Harel Skaat’s “The Wind Will Change Its Course”

    Generally the theme song of living in Israel for me is Aaron Razel’s cover of “Shomer Yisrael”, Guardian of Israel. Today we have been playing it/singing it a lot as we mourn the three teenagers kidnapped and murdered by Hamas. I moved to Israel soon after the unilateral disengagement in Gaza and the Second Lebanon War.

    Now for being someone, who doesn’t believe in G-d, I have 2 out of three religious songs… So adding Oseh Shalom as recorded by three English chazzanim and school children for Israel’s 60th birthday is not even surprising as my theme song for the situation in the Middle East.

    My blogging theme song should be Eric Saade’s “Popular” from the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest, but really, it’s more like Harel Skaat’s cover of Bdidut (Loneliness).

    When it comes to being human, Rich Mullins’ “Elijah” is the song.

    As a bonus, I’d like to throw in “Earthen Vessels” by the St. Louis Jesuists.

  6. Jaime

    Oh, where to start! I love theme songs and the power music has to elicit vivid memories. For me what comes to mind most readily is the day I found out I was offered an interview for a medical school . . . the only interview I ended up getting offered after about 4-5 rejection letters. The amazing thing was that this letter was a “last notice” that they were offering me the interview as the original seemed to have gotten lost in the mail. I had nearly missed my last hope of having a chance to get in and somehow God gave me a second chance. As I finished the letter, U2’s “Beautiful Day” was playing on the mini CD/radio sitting on my kitchen table. That was 13 years ago and I’m now a general surgeon currently serving with the U.S. Navy in Japan. Praise God!

  7. Tammy

    In a big overarching way, my life anthem is “In the Palm of Your Hand” by Alison Krauss…it really covers everything.

    I sheepishly admit that I have a fantasy of that being played at the beginning of my funeral, loud, over a high quality PA system for everyone to hear. In reality though, we don’t play music in that manner in Catholic Churches before funerals and I don’t think Im going to die anytime soon.

    While Im on the topic of funeral music though…can I just vent that Church is sometimes a hard place for a widow (and dang it Im still in my 40s…what the heck?!). This past Sunday, I got wedged between 2 (other peoples) husbands then the hymn was one played at my husbands funeral. My extroverted self wanted everyone there to know why I couldnt do any better than staring down, but that is rather impractical.

  8. Mira

    “The Auctioneer Song” by Leroy Vandyke.

    My family listened to a CD with oldies from the 50s, 60s and 70s whenever we were on our way to the beach house.

    Whenever I hear that song I remember driving on a road lined with tall, dark-green cypresses, wind in my hair, eating tangerines and looking out the window at the golden sun high above blue North Adriatic Sea. 🙂

  9. Kirsten

    What a fun post! I have to admit, though — I’ve been reading your blog for over a year now, and this is (I’m pretty darn sure) the first time I’ve commented. Theme songs? I’m all over that.

    The first theme song I’d have to choose is “Broken” by Lifehouse. Four years ago, I was a baby Catholic. In fact, at the time I was received into the church, I had been married not quite a year and was pregnant with our first child. At our 20 week ultrasound, we learned that our son had a serious congenital heart defect, and multiple doctors pushed abortion, and one even told us that having this baby would ruin our marriage. I’ve written about this a ton already (, but suffice it to say we were devastated, but the prenatal diagnosis at the very least allowed us to prepare our ideal care team, and ourselves for what we would face. When he was born, we were so hopeful — he looked so perfect, not “sick” at all. But nothing really went well for him. Multiple surgeries and procedures, and something was always going terribly wrong. I held him twice prior to the night he died, and my husband’s first time holding his firstborn was when my entire family and some friends took over that cardiac ICU room to say goodbye and hand my son over to Jesus.

    There were many dark months after Ewan’s death, and to say I felt like I was drowning in and suffocated by grief was an understatement. I was never suicidal, but there were many mornings I was surprised to wake up and find that the grief hadn’t killed me. The lyrics to “Broken” resonated so, so deeply, particularly about the broken heart still beating, finding healing in the pain, and the barely holding on part:

    I’m falling apart
    I’m barely breathing
    With a broken heart
    That’s still beating

    In the pain
    There is healing
    In your name
    I find meaning

    So I’m holding on
    I’m holding on
    I’m holding on
    I’m barely holding on to you

    It’s nearly four years now since my son was born, and even though we are in a much happier time now, I still grieve and sometimes fall apart crying over him, wondering what our family would be like with him here. It is something I carry with me always, even now that we have a healthy, spirited girl who’s nearly 2-1/2, and am currently expecting our third (another son who, thanks be to God, is healthy!) in early November.

    But this song? This song always takes me back to those moments when I was surprised to survive my own grief every day, and reminds me how much we’ve been through, and how very much we have to be thankful for.

    Bless you, Jennifer! 🙂

  10. Caroline Starr Rose

    Plow to the End of the Row will forever be my writing theme song…even though I didn’t hear the full song until I sold my first book (I downloaded it as a sort of celebration). I heard singer Adrienne Young on NPR in 2004 talk about the song and her work, and it was such an encouragement to me to keep plowing in my own creative endeavors.

    For some weird reason, I’ve always connected My Sharona with skiing…

    A question for you: I read your book while on vacation and wondered about your blood clots and subsequent pregnancies. Where there issues with each one?

  11. Jean

    Please tell your posse here that they can listen to you on Lino’s show online for free! Sure, you can only do it for a month, and you do have to cancel if you don’t want them to start billing as of month #2. But it’s probably a good deal for SiriusXM dot com to have all kinds of new potential subscribers giving them a listen. So I don’t think it’s “cheating” to sign up thinking you’ll probably drop. That’s the whole point of a “try it free” offer IMO.

  12. Sister Lynn

    It’s an oldie …. Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin

    It was the song I most identify with accepting my vocation.

    “When my soul was in the lost and found
    You came along, to claim it
    I didn’t know just what was wrong with me
    ‘Til your kiss helped me name it

    Now I’m no longer doubtful of what I’m living for
    And if I make you happy I don’t need to do more”

  13. Heather

    Safe and Sound by Capitol Cities was our NICU song. I swear it was on the radio every time I drove to and from the hospital for 2 months. And I cried every time I heard it. Now 9 months later, I dance with the baby and listen to it. And he giggles 🙂

  14. William Jessup

    “By and by” by Jennifer Knapp is one that immediately comes to mind. In 2001, I had left my job in Round Rock to work for small start-up company in San Diego followed by contract work for the military which abruptly ended after 9/11. Anna and I were engaged to get married at the end of 2001. She was living in San Antonio at the time, and the original plan was for her to move to San Diego after the wedding. After 9/11 and the job ending, we decided it would be best for me to return to Texas. A few weeks before moving back and the wedding, I was listening to this song when I lost control and totaled my car. I was extremely fortunate that the guardrail held; Otherwise, I would have plunged into a ravine. I was able to walk away unscathed but shaken. Interestingly, at that point in my life, I was a solid closet atheist, and I if I had realized Jennifer Knapp was a Christian artist, I probably would not have bought her CD. According to her, the song is about the search for grace.

  15. Monica

    This is the song most likely to help me get my groove on. I”m a busy mom, who unlike my husband and kids…am not usually the type to consider karaoke or to dance wildly around the house….so this is the closest I get. It’s cool and hip….and after reading your book, Jennifer, I just have a feeling that you will like it too…. The lyrics are a little raw…and my kids just shake their heads when I play it….maybe because it makes me all jiggy when I drive. It’s not exactly linked to a specific memory…but more like the phase of life when my kids are generally getting cooler than I am.
    Big Red Heart by Tracy Bonham

  16. Rose G.

    My theme song for the past four or five years has been “You’re gonna miss this” by Trace Adkins –

    It talks about a young woman who’s going off to college, then newly married, then raising small children. In each verse, she’s looking ahead to the “next thing” in her life, but she gets reminded by someone else that she needs to appreciate the present.

    “You’re gonna miss this.
    You’re gonna want this back.
    You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.
    These are some good times, so take a good look around.
    You may not know it now,
    But you’re gonna miss this.”

    I first heard the song when I was a “brand new bride…in a one bedroom apartment…talking about babies and buying a house.” Those words in the song described me so exactly at the time, I couldn’t believe it! My husband and I tried to have babies, but suffered from infertility for three years. The song was painful to listen to during those years, but a good reminder to me to appreciate the special time with my husband.

    I was finally able to get pregnant, and now I’m a stay-at-home mom with a sweet but busy little girl. The songs reminds me now to treasure each moment I have with my daughter, because she’ll never be this little again.

    There are so, so many other songs that I associate with particular moments in my life, but this is the one that I consider my “theme song.” Sometimes I think, how did this singer write a song about my life when I’ve never even met him?!

    • Lee

      Great song Rose! I used to sing it to myself when I was up in the middle of the night with my babies 🙂

  17. Cecilia Gonzalez

    I wanted to stay in US for a while and work after my master program was done. My faith life was in a peak and after 3 months looking for a job and living out of my friends charity, I had a spiritual dark night. That same time I was listening MUSE very often, specially their song FOLLOW ME. I had so much free time I joined the Children of the Rosary and that allowed me to bend down on my knees and learn how to say YES. That same time I invested my savings in two Theology of the Body seminars with Katrina Zeno. After almost 8 months looking for a job and having no more savings left to live in US, I decided to do what God wanted. He wanted me back in Bolivia (my country) and after almost a year He granted me the duty to lead a Confirmation group and prepare different talks inside a study group and speak about the Theology of the Body.

    When darkness falls
    And surrounds you
    When you fall down
    When you’re scared
    And you’re lost
    Be brave
    I’m coming to hold you now
    When all your strength has gone
    And you feel wrong
    Like your life has slipped away
    Follow me
    You can follow me
    And I will not desert you now
    When your fire’s died out
    No one’s there
    They have left you for dead
    Follow me

  18. Anne

    Have you heard Breathe by U2 from the No Line on the Horizon album? That song is a very vivid reminder of my powerful reversion to the church. The whole album speaks to a reversion. On top of that, I got to hear them in concert for this album at Soldier Field (Chicago- open air stadium) on a beautiful September evening, and it was like heaven cracked open. Plus, the first song they sang was Breathe!

  19. giarose

    Jen, you always have such great questions!

    Childhood – “Major Tom” by Peter Schilling. We had a 7-inch with this single, English on one side and German on the other. My six older siblings and I would play this on our fisher price and rock out in our living room, spinning, falling, dancing. This song takes me to such a happy place 🙂

    Dating my husband – “August Day Song” by Bebel Gilberto. When we were first dating we drove out to see his country house in Gonzales for the first time and I had butterflies in my stomach just sitting in the car beside him. He turned on his radio and he had this Bebel Gilberto disc in that I listened to all the time and I was so surprised and pleased that he had it. Became our theme album.

    Labor music – “Corcovado” or anything with Stan Getz/Astrud and Joao Gilberto – I listened to this in labor for the first three kiddos. Didn’t have a chance for music with last two.

    Changing diapers or entertaining/redirecting babies/toddlers – “I had a Rooster” by Pete Seeger. Highly recommend his album Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Fishes for anyone that has kids. they LOVE it.

    First-time-mommy-soothing-colicky-baby-and-trying-to-stay-sane-in-middle-of-the-night-song-while-husband-works-a-double-shift – “Gracias a la Vida” by Mercedes Sosa. too many of those nights but it was a short season of life.

    The current sound track of my life is “Whistle Stop” by Roger Miller. My kids watched Disney’s Robin Hood for the first time during my latest pregnancy. Oldest son is a big whistler and he has been whistling this and rocking him since he was a newborn. The baby loves it. It has been five months. this is now my life:

    • Caroline M

      Major Tom is such a sad song, but it makes me happy too! Lots of good memories….

  20. Leesha

    When I studied abroad in England, I purchased a CD by Stephanie Dosen. I played it so often while there, that it will forever be associated with morning tea, rainy Sundays, and walks through British sheep fields. My favorite from the album is “This Joy”:

  21. Lynette

    After my grandfather died (and before I became Catholic), a visiting choir sang “Golden City” at the church I was attending. As they got to the chorus (around 1:28 on this link), it was as though I could hear the choir of heaven join in and comfort me that I will see my grandfather again “in the New Jerusalem.” It was an amazing personal experience that brought me to tears and is difficult to explain unless you’ve been there yourself.

  22. Dave

    My theme song is “Wildfire”.

    Only kidding. I’m an old guy who doesn’t do social media or carry a cell phone. But, I’m a long time fan of your’s and Lino’s. Thought I’d share some thoughts from a different generation.

    I think you were a little hard on Michael Martin Murphey yesterday. As long as I can remember, people have written sad tragic song to the music of the times. Teen Angel, J. Frank Wilson’s Last Kiss, Leader of the Pack, Dead Man’s Curve are some examples of tragic pop songs. About the time that Wildfire came out Bobby Goldsboro recorded “Honey”, about a young wife dying. Some country songs are George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and B. Paisley & A. Krauss’ “Whiskey Lullaby”.

    Suggesting Wildfire was a mere money grab I think was a stretch. I might could say the same thing about some of Tupac’s work. Yes, I’m in the process of enjoying your book – I’m a big fan.

    Actually M. M. Murphey’s inspiration for “Wildfire” was a fable passed down from his grandfather about a “ghost” horse who came to people’s aid in the desert. I found that out on line.

    I hope don’t think that I’m too harsh. I have followed your blog since 2010. My wife and I became Catholic in 2011. I have shared your website with many people, young and “not so ” young.

    You and Lino make a great team. Enjoy your week!

  23. Rebecca

    When I was in labour with my first son (for 32 hours, ha), I brought a CD of Don Williams’ greatest hits. As the hours wore on, I insisted on listening to “I believe (in love)” nonstop. Probably for ten hours straight. I think both my husband and my doula were ready to rip the CD player out of the wall and throw it away but I was all, “I’m the one in pain and I choose the playlist, bahahahaha!” I wasn’t exactly rational.

    This isn’t exactly a theme song, but the entire CD “Excellent” by Propaganda will always be associated with 2014 because I am OBSESSED. (Who is Propaganda, you ask? He’s a rapper (actually a Christian rapper, but I feel like I want to say his music is so much less cheesy than that description would indicate). if you like rap, you are seriously missing out if you don’t listen to Propaganda. he is amazing.)

  24. Kelley Cutler

    Oh this is an easy one for me to answer. My theme song has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid because I connected with so much… which some found a bit disturbing. It’s ‘Father & Son” by Cat Stevens-

    Funny you mentioned Mumford and Sons because I’ve really connected with some of their work. Especially, ‘The Cave’- and ‘Hold on to what you believe’-

    Hmm…. the songs I picked make me sound so melodramatic!

  25. Jose

    Surely I can’t be the only one that began to type up a response and then got distracted, singing and bobbing along in front of my monitors before looking up and thinking “Hey what’s this tab? Oh! I was supposed to comment…”

  26. Anne

    Music…I play music, as in play several instruments, and sing…I’ve grown up my whole life surrounded by music. My tastes are very eclectic, very small-c catholic.
    For my marriage, we started off 15 years ago this August with “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles. Right now, “Broken Together” by Casting Crowns is where we are at.
    For the past year, which has been really hard, but one that has given me a lot of spiritual and personal growth there would be three: “This Is Where the Healing Begins” by Tenth Avenue North, “Broken Praise” by Todd Smith on the “Music Inspired by The Story” album, and “You Were On The Cross” by Matt Maher.

  27. Angelia

    I have so many songs that speak to a certain time of my life but I will just name a few. “I Cross My Heart” by George Strait is special to my husband and I because it speaks to the testament of our love for each other. I also really like “100 Years” by Five for Fighting. My husband and I saw this song performed in the upstairs of a bookstore. Kind of an unplugged version. It was small, intimate, and beautiful. I am a big country music fan but more with the new stuff. I don’t really like the twangy old stuff so “Springsteen” by Eric Church and “Tornado” by Little Big Town. Both have catchy beats. And lastly I have fallen in love with “Give me Your Eyes” by Brandon Heath. It is the ringtone on my phone. It reminds me that we should be looking at all things through God’s eyes and then we will see the true beauty of everything and everyone in this world.

  28. Julia

    Love this idea! Love the Coldplay and Mumford & Sons songs. Matisyahu was new to me. As I had too many to share to clog up your com box, I wrote a blog entry instead. Thanks for being a wonderful muse! Here’s to an unofficial linkup…

  29. Natalie

    I sing classical music, so many memories are linked with the choral works I was singing at the time. The Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi has the most beautiful melody for the Agnus Dei, it sounds like a lullaby. I sang that piece for the first time when my first son was a newborn. I used to sing it to him!
    I also think about his infancy when I hear Fleet Foxes, especially “White Winter Hymnal” from their first album. My husband bought that CD shortly after our son was born and we used to listen to it all the time.

  30. Kris

    When I Say I Do, by Clint Black, with Lisa Hartmann Black. Mostly because I was listening to it in the car, driving somewhere, right after my husband was deployed for the first time after 9/11. He has just left and this came on, and I was a sobbing mess in the car! Not a great, happy memory, but one that stands out! There are lots of lovely, happy songs, too, but having survived three deployments in 10 years, that moment still sticks in my brain!

  31. Kris

    Ok – happy memory one, since that above comment was kind of depressing! Brad Paisley – She’s Everything. Because it describes a girl with a Saturn with a sunroof, among other things, which was the car I drove when my husband and I started dating. He always says everything in the song describes me and how he feels about me, so it always makes me smile when I hear it.

  32. elizabethe

    Too much of a narcissist to not comment on this theme, will try to limit it to three more meaningful things.

    1. My decision to become an atheist in college. I remember quite clearly the general time period and specific decision I made to stop believing in God when I was in college. I simultaneously decided I couldn’t believe in the Christian God that I had learned about and also began to study Christianity and other religions in a systematic way through coursework. I was taking all these classes on the Bible and the Historical Jesus and various Christian sects and non-Christian religions and I also sang in a choir and this same semester we spent preparing a work for our Spring concert — Ralph Vaughan Williams “Dona Nobis Pacem” which he wrote between the two World Wars. It perfectly captured the desperate feelings I had of longing for peace (“We looked for peace, but no good came …”) along with a fatalistic certainty that I was just not going to get it (beat, beat drums, blow bugles blow, through the windows, through doors, burst like a ruthless force, into the solemn churches and scatter the congregations) and that forces dragging me to (spiritual) war were simply irresistible. It ran through my head a LOT.

    2. Last few years of graduate school. After I converted to Catholicism, I still had a number of years to go in graduate school, but I soon realized that all my intellectual choices and professional decisions had been driven up till then by a far-left, feminist, atheist, anti-Christian ideology that I had built up for myself but simply no longer believed. It was a severe intellectual identity crisis. The hardest thing I have ever done is to finish my dissertation (I was only able to do it with the drive and support of my husband). The theme song for that time is “The Scientist” by Coldplay (is this cheating? b/c this was also my answer to the “what’s your myers-briggs personality type theme song.”) “Nobody said it was easy, nobody said it would be this hard — I’m going back to the start.” and “questions of science, science and progress, don’t speak as loud as my heart” (part of my area of study was involved with the idea of scientific progress in American history).

    3. High school in general — But Not Tonight, by Depeche Mode. This song reflected both my fundamental optimism that there was something better somewhere while acknowledging that day to day life sucked a lot: “here on my own, all on my own, how good it feels to be alone tonight — and I haven’t felt so alive, in years. The moon is shining in the sky, reminding me of so many other nights, when my eyes had been so red, I’d been mistaken for dead, but not tonight.”

  33. the misfit

    OK, I just discovered your site…yesterday. I’m unsure how that’s possible, but thank you to the Nester. (I loved your husband’s comments.) I had too much to catch up on to comment on each post, but I thought I’d throw in on this one. I know the phenomenon you’re referring to – things you hear and they transport you back. Even if it makes far less sense than other songs, to be associated with that time.

    Tubthumping is the theme of studying for chemistry exams my freshman year of college. I loved the song, had for some reason just discovered it, and my study partner thought that was so funny that he insisted we play it (and dance to it) before we started any chemistry assignment. (However that may sound, we were always and only just friends, which is so refreshing. He’s a great guy – and an atheist, as it happens, but, I suspect, a future Catholic.) Freshman year in general had a lot of great theme songs. Eiffel 65’s “Blue” was near top of that list – the song of going out dancing with my hallmates. I think I would always have to dance to that song.

    “Whiskey Lullaby” (mentioned above) and Shania Twain’s “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing” are the songs of starting to date my husband and finding out he was a still-drinking alcoholic and going through all the pain and despair that entails. I was young and stupid and oblivious. It’s a good story for the life of faith. He nearly died. I just felt like I would. He hasn’t had a drink in more than ten years. We have been married almost nine. God is good.

    And “Here I Am, Lord,” for all my dislike of contemporary worship music, is the song I was singing at home out of an expired hymnal when it occurred to me for the very first time that those words could have anything to do with me. I was in the fifth grade. I didn’t do anything with that thought for many years.

    I’m sure there are more. And I hope there will continue to be!

  34. Jeri-Lynn Woods

    As a music lover married to a professional musician, boy, do I have songs! I’ll only mention one, though, that has been “our song” since I was on the road with my hubby, Dusty Woods, back in the 80s. The song is “Blues Man” by Hank Williams Jr. This song really clicked with both of us, because it resonated with our story…

    “I’m just a singer
    a natural-born guitar ringer
    kind of a clinger
    to sad old songs…
    I was alone in the hot lights
    not too much left in sight
    but you changed that in one night
    when you sang me this song.
    Hey baby I love you
    hey baby I need you…”

    A couple of years ago, for my birthday, Dusty recorded this just for me – I still get tears in my eyes thinking about it!

  35. Caroline M

    Oh man… The song I first thought of is the cover version of The Boys of Summer (not Don Henley, can’t remember the band’s name). My best friend in high school and I were in the high school parking lot, windows down and that song blaring. As we started to drive away, my boyfriend ran up to us and tried to keep up, singing off key at the top of his lungs. Of course, I ended up marrying that guy.

    • Tony

      Hi Caroline, that was the Ataris.

  36. MB

    For my daughter’s NICU stay: “Home” by Phillip Phillips. She was born too small, too early, and with some other issues, and all I wanted to do was bring her home. The NICU hospital is an hour drive from my home, so I’d often here this on the lonesome drive.

    For my pregnancy that came after that one: Wake Me Up When IT’s all Over” by Avicii.
    IT seemed after one problematic delivery, I got stuck with lots of extra testing, some complications, and a lot of waiting with the next. It was very hard. This song reflected my attitude during this long cold winter of waiting.

  37. John

    Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells. Reminds me of summers at my Grandmothers with all my sisters and brother.

  38. Jennifer

    So many theme songs….my theme song for infertility–driving home after my natural family planning OB-GYN gave me the several test results that meant I wouldn’t be getting pregnant, while I was still trying to smile–Bright Eyes’ Shell Game came on the stereo. Once “here it comes, that heavy love, I’m never gonna move it alone” kicked in, I started to weep. I still cry the times I hear it, but my husband and I moved on to adopt, and the 3 year old keeps me laughing these days.

  39. Becca

    I never comment, but can’t help myself this time! I’m not including any Mumford and Sons, since you’ve already mentioned my second-favorite song of theirs. So, my soundtrack:

    On a serious note, this is the song that played over and over and over again in my head as we sat in the waiting room during the 8 1/2 hour surgery to remove my toddler daughter’s brain tumor. It’s not in english, but that doesn’t matter, this song perfectly expresses what it is like to travel with a loved one through cancer.

    On a lighter note, this song has the line I want inscribed on my tombstone. (“When I walk into a room I do not light it up….F—.)

    The song my toddler made us sing to her over and over again as she recovered in the hospital (and as she underwent chemo treatments…) It’s a song PJ only plays live, and even that very rarely. Ironically, they played it at a show we had tickets to but missed because of my daughter’s hospital stay. (That toddler is now 9 and in great health…but is having pain we can’t identify and are looking into, hence why that time is so front-of-mind right now.)

    Finally, here’s the song my husband used to play in our early marriage years, every single time we had a fight. It took over a year of this happening before I finally said, “You know you play that song every time we have a disagreement, right? What the heck?” He was shocked, had no idea he had this pattern. So now this seems like the funniest song ever to me.

    • Becca

      Uh, I forgot to mention the names of my songs! First is Glosoli by Sigur Ros, second is Demons by The National, third is It’s okay by Pearl Jam, last one is Sad Professor by REM.

      • Becca

        Hmmm…I think my original post got lost. I’m too tired to rewrite it, so I’ll just say #1 is a good watching-a-loved-one-battle-cancer song, #2 has a line that describes me perfectly, #3 was a comfort to my toddler and now makes me cry every time I hear it, #4 is a sad song that seems silly to me now because of how I heard it.

  40. Carol A

    Anything from Springsteen’s “The Rising” album takes me back to early Sept. 2002, driving through Vermont on vacation with my husband in our little green Saturn SL2.

  41. Sara

    My theme song right now is Ordinary Time by Marie Bellet. I am realizing just how fast time goes as I can hardly believe my oldest is already a teenager and I am struggling not to get caught up in the messes and business of having 5 children (“milk spilled upon the floor…crayon on the walls”) and just try to take a deep breath and love on my kids because “there will come a day”….
    My theme song for 2012 when I lost 2 precious babies through miscarriage (the first in January and the second in August- both at 12 weeks) was Beauty Will Rise by Steven Curtis Chapman. And beauty did rise as I was pregnant with my beautiful daughter by December of that same year.
    From my days as a young, new mom, it is Creed’s With Arms Wide Open that comes to mind and when I think of my husband, it’s Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing.
    My overall life song, however, is Livin on a Prayer, because, well, I do, and because, hey, I’m a Jersey Girl. 😉

  42. Gina

    “Day by Day” by the Fifth Dimension

    When I was in primary school, the high school choir would sing that song after mass. It is such a simple song and I liked the lyrics and sang it all the time 🙂

  43. Cat

    Marriage/Husband – “Better Dig Two” by The Band Perry, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley, “Young & Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri

    Son – “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and “My Love” by The Bird and The Bee

    Daughter – “Happy Together” by The Turtles

    Life in General – “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” by Tim McGraw, “Chicken Fried” by The Zac Brown Band, “A Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr., “Counting Stars” by One Republic

    Death – “Dark Paradise” by Lana Del Rey

  44. john

    I’m cradle catholic but I learned to appreciate a lot of my faith through conversion stories. Listening to Bamboo’s “carousel” especially the part where children sing “I’m home” always wants to make me cry for sheer thankfulness and amazement at how much God loves us and wants to bring us Home to Him. (some lyrics do not match). God Bless you and your family. Can’t wait to read your book. Still waiting for it to arrive here in the Philippines.

  45. Mary @ St Henry II

    Viva La Vida is one of my all-time favorite songs! Just published a post on my theme songs – hope you come check it out!

  46. Melody

    This was way harder than I expected. And my songs for my childhood: super depressing (ex. Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks). Haha

  47. Candice O.

    Our NICU song was also Lover of the Lights. It wasn’t because we would hear the song playing at just the right moments or anything, but rather because my husband decided to make a beautiful slideshow for me to watch with pictures of my daughter from her delivery and first few days of life since I couldn’t hold her or be with her 100% of the time. The video’s soundtrack was Lover of the Lights… and ironically enough we were unable to hold our baby because she needed to be under the maximum amount of jaundice lights 24 hours a day. SOoo, most of the pictures of her from the video show her under those bright, neon bilirubin lights. She’s almost 3 months old now, but because of her extensive stay under the lights, and my husband’s beautiful slideshow, we will forever call her our little “Lover of the Lights”. 😉

  48. MamaTod

    “Wonderful, Merciful Savior”, sung by my daughter and her two college friends at the commissioning service to send her off to the mission field for the first time, in 2003.

    “10,000 Reasons, Bless the Lord O My Soul” because we sang it at her wedding on mainland Ch*na and I looked out the window to see that country’s flag flying in the breeze. I thought “that flag represents a very powerful nation, a nation that has oppressed God’s people. We here in this room look like a bunch of nobodies, not powerful, not wealthy, but we belong to and serve the God of all power and He reigns.” My heart went to it’s knees in worship, I began crying, and I couldn’t sing another note. That song brings it all back.

    “The Stand” because I wrestled with God in a side room during a church service one night and gave up my rights to my 2nd daughter living nearby and released her to go to a closed country for His sake also. When I came back into the service, we sang that song. “I’ll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned, in awe, of the one who gave it all”.

    “May I Never Lose the Wonder, the wonder of the cross, may I see it like the first time…” I don’t know the name, but that is certainly a heart cry.

    “Because He Lives” (I can face tomorrow), is connected to my brother leaving for the US Navy when I was pregnant with son #1; 26 years later on THE DAY son #1 deployed for Iraq, we sang it in church.

    And on a lighter note “You are my sunshine” belongs to my baby (girl #3, child #9) because I sang it to her all the time as a baby. “Tell Me Why” to son #4, Child #6) for the same reason, and “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” by Elvis, for my husband because it came on when we were stuck for HOURS in traffic on vacation with 6 kids and we were about to go insane. It made us smile.

  49. Sara

    I cannot listen to REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” without thinking of my reversion back to the Church.

  50. John VH

    Viva La Vida is SUCH an interesting choice! The music is great. But more, when I first heard heard it on the radio I was picturing a guy who had been a typical rock star (owned the streets, ruled the world) who had a deep down and complete conversion – and consequently a complete falling out with everyone and everything from his previous lifestyle. (I was just a little disappointed when I saw the album cover and found out that it was probably a French revolution theme. But I still hold out hope that maybe that’s actually just the cover story and metaphor for his much cooler personal story that I first imagined).

    But I have a few others to consider:
    – This is Home by Switchfoot. It gives me that Sehnsucht kind of feel that music is so good at doing. And that may be the kind of theme (in words and music) you want.
    – Little Wonders by Rob Thomas. Great tune. Watershed lyrics at the start of the song. And just plain good insight and wisdom can be attached to the rest.
    – Slow Your Breath Down by Future of Forestry. Something that might be sung to us at certain times in our lives by someone who really loves us.

  51. Ronni

    I was also going to say Viva La Vida. It’s felt very poignant twice in my life. First, during my very difficult first year teaching in 2007. And then again during some really rough financial/career situations we’ve been in the past year or so. It’s just a beautiful song.

  52. Mary Beth S

    “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” by Stevie Wonder. I was home from college one summer & working at a data company when this song was popular. A co-worker kept calling me “Sunshine.” I thought he was flirting, but it turned out he didn’t know my name….

  53. Viki

    For the long days and nights that were those first few months with my newborn son – the song I constantly had ready to go on my playlist was “It won’t be like this for long” by Darius Rucker. The song got me through the rough patches while also reminding me to savor all those little moments that I miss ever so much now that he’s not longer a newborn.

    When my dad moved out and my parents divorced, the song “Walk By Faith” by Jeremy Camp – the lyrics: “And I will walk by faith, even when I cannot see.” I was so blinded by grief at the time (my whole world falling apart) and faith, God, was the only constant I had to hold onto. I can’t listen to that song without thinking of those days and how it got me through.

    Theme song for when I’m travelling: “Walking in Memphis.” My husband and I had a layover in Memphis one time and as we walked through the airport he belted out the lyrics because, hey, we were walking in Memphis. I think about it whenever we travel and smile at my husband’s willingness to do anything to bring a smile to my face. I sing my son to sleep with that song all the time.

  54. Saun

    My first baby, a son, died on Thanksgiving Day, less than 24 hours after being born. Everywhere I went, until Christmas was over, Christmas music was playing. Many songs were difficult for me to listen to without breaking down. The song that would bring me to tears every time I heard it was “Away In The Manger”. I still get choked up and it’s been 36 years now.

  55. Jas

    You folks are wonderful. God bless all! This is weird, but there’s a thing I can’t control where two songs play in my head at the same time. Music always first, lyrics secondary, never with same meaning. Too many songs, I avoid youtube and most radio because they get ‘stuck’. This is not true at Mass, though. There are my theme songs. At home I prefer classical, mainly Mozart. Other than that lately I prefer old R&B / Motown. There’s something else I can’t explain… something familiar but afraid to ask. Please pray for me as I pray for you. God bless

  56. Blair

    Finally got around to writing a blog post with my (eight!) theme songs. I couldn’t pick just a few! But I think the top pick would be the last one, “Lullabye” by Billy Joel. It’s so poignant as a mom to think of singing our babies to sleep (even though I don’t often do that), assuring them that we will always be here for them, and that this figurative “song” we’re singing them will go on and on even after we’re gone. I’ve had a fun evening listening to all kinds of old songs on YouTube 🙂

  57. Nellie

    “Kyrie” by 80’s band Mr. Mister has always been a favorite and became a theme when I was trying to conceive a 2nd child (would come on the radio when I was on the way to the fertility specialist). When I found out I was having boy/girl twins (!), I felt Kyrie would be a pretty and meaningful middle name for my daughter. Her first name is Lia, a family nickname, after my mother and great grandmother, Oma (who died when my mother was a child). I always loved that Kyrie elesion means “Lord have mercy.” I recently found out from my mother’s cousin, who was raised by my great-grandmother, that Oma’s “oh my” phrase was “Lord have mercy!” I smiled with tears in my eyes – of course, that just made sense. 🙂


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  60. LeAnna

    It’s hard for me to pick just one, because it seems like my days are always set to music. But I thought back to a really difficult time in my life and came up with two:

    — Brahms’ Waltz in G Sharp Minor ( I was taking piano lessons at the time and I was able to pour all my misery and anger and sadness into this waltz (the youtube video is a little more jaunty than how I used to play it!).

    — Delerium’s “A Poem for Byzantium” ( The lyrics always gave me hope & made me feel empowered to go forward and choose the path of happiness in life, no matter what current circumstances were. And as a bonus, when I met my eventual husband, it turned out that we both enjoyed Delerium’s music which gave us something to talk about.

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