Soundtracks of Our Lives: Musical Oral History

Choose questions to help a friend or family member recall times in their lives when songs played an important role. Or use these questions to jog your own memories!

Childhood

What is the first song you remember learning? How did you learn it?

What songs did you sing in Sunday school, church, or synagogue?

What songs did you learn in school? What songs were used as learning or memory aids (for example, learning the alphabet or memorizing state capitals)?

What singing games did you play? What were your favorite jump-rope rhymes?

When do you first remember listening to pop music? What were the circumstances? How and when did you listen? (for example, getting ready for school, in the evening with family or friends, on the radio, records, TV, etc.)?

Teen Years

When did you buy your first “grown-up” record? What was it? How did you get the money? Where did you buy it?• What kinds of music did you think were “old-fashioned”? What musical styles did you associate with your parents? Did you also enjoy that type of music?

What dances were popular when you were young? When and where did you and your friends go dancing? How often?

What were some of your favorite popular music styles? Who were your favorite performers? Who were the most popular musical “stars” when you were in junior high? High school? College or young adulthood?

What songs or musical styles from this period do you remember as being “controversial”? Why were they controversial and with whom?

Besides popular music, what music did you enjoy? How? Did you ever feel a conflict around your musical interests?

Where and when do you remember singing with a group? (Camp, church, clubs, on the bus, in the car, etc.)

In what other ways were you involved in performing music? How important was musical performance—as a personal hobby, family tradition, or a school or community function—to you and to your family?

Adulthood

When did you first start feeling that “modern music” wasn’t “your music”? When did you first start to listen to “oldies” radio stations and albums? How did that make you feel?

What are some of your favorite songs from the past? Why?

What songs bring up vivid memories for you? What are the memories and feelings they bring back? What songs bring a tear to your eye? Why?

Who have you shared a “special song” with? (Spouse, fiancé, group of friends, team or club, etc.)

When you think of [Viet Nam—insert any current event contemporary with interviewee], what songs do you think of? What songs came closest to voicing your feelings about what was happening? Has a piece of music ever influenced your opinion or feelings about an issue?

How is music part of your life today? What styles of music do you enjoy now? How have your musical tastes changed or stayed the same?

 
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