In 1977 my sister spent hours in our living room trying to get me to snap my fingers and kick my leg back at the same time as the disco song “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees played on our parents console record player. To this day I remember the lyrics:
Feel the city breakin and everybody shakin,
And were stayin alive, stayin alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive, stayin alive.
Just the other day my wife and I were headed to the grocery store and Willie Nelson’s song, “Always On My Mind” came on the radio. I started singing along knowing every word.
Little things I should have said and done.
I just never took the time.
But you were always on my mind,
You were always on my mind.
My wife suddenly turned the radio down and said, “Your brain has got to be mostly song lyrics!” Perhaps there’s something to this. I write notes to remind myself to send emails, give the dog his monthly heart meds, or pick up items at the grocery store. I can rarely tell you what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can remember a song lyric from 1977.
Rest assured, I’m not alone. I think more people than we realize have this “issue”. There are now websites devoted to selling shirts, mugs, and bumper stickers that tout, “My brain is 80% song lyrics!”
Scientists have attempted to explain this over the years. According to one research study I looked into, our short-term memory can hold around seven items at a time. After hearing a song for the first time, the lyrics are stored in our short-term memory. However, that information quickly migrates over to our long-term memory within minutes. By the time you listen to a song several times, its forever memorized.
Radio jingles are the best! I have a friend in Nashville who has made a living writing them. He says the best jingles are designed to infiltrate our minds instantly, stay there for years, and then pop up when we’re shopping. When was the last time you were at the store and saw a box of Band-Aids and recalled the song, “I am stuck on Band-Aids’ cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me.” Or better yet, “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz”. I don’t even need to mention the name of the product. I bet you’re singing!
Neurologist and Psychologists who study the effects of music on the brain have found music with a strong emotional connection to the listener is difficult to forget. I also read recently music can help Alzheimer’s patients remember things better and learning to play an instrument may delay dementia. I think we all can agree that music is powerful. It has the ability to even lift up our spirits on a gloomy day.
Perhaps all this music in my head is not a bad thing after all. Our brains hold about 2.5 petabytes. That means if our brains worked like a digital video recorder on our television, we would have to leave the TV running for more than 300 years continuously recording to use up all that storage.
That’s a relief! I still have room for a few more thousand songs up there.