Soon Running away from the mall, my son, Jack, asked me to play Neil Diamond’s “Beautiful Sounds”. Most 7-year-olds ask Disney or Games songs. Not Jack. From the age of three, Jack was crying Neil Diamond beat.
It didn’t happen by design. Diamond’s music was just among the 1,500 tracks including our iPod family. But I quickly realized that Jack’s love for Neil Diamond could be a binding thread for my late father, who died when Jack was 4 years old.
The singer was one of my favorite artists. Whenever he hears “Sweet Caroline,” Dad joins the choir in his deaf-mute voice as if he were on stage at the Hollywood Bowl. Now when I take the song on our iPod – and hear Jack sing in the back of my minibus – I feel like I’m connected to my dad.
Admittedly, using music to strengthen family relationships is unfounded. Research like this, published in Behavior and Brain Science, show kids before they go to school make up a collaboration, role-playing, music. By the age of 2 or 3, children are able to produce songs that their caregivers sing loudly and clearly, and children show better singing than talking.
“Music transcends all ages, languages, religions, or cultures,” says sociologist Luke Glowacki, a professor at Boston University. “It provides a way to bring people together and help them adjust to new areas and deal with challenges.”
Research like this was published in American Psychology shows that music is a powerful tool for communicating with people, even when people are far away. The networks in your brain that play in music are connected to those that are connected and connected. In addition, singing along with your favorite songs contributes to the reward of good, overflowing with the body and the associated drugs dopamine and oxytocin.
The more I research, the more I want to adopt magical skills to remember and remind people. My first thought was to make a playlist that my dad liked. Whether you use Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, or SoundCloud, most apps with a playlist have expertise that helps you list files from multiple titles. But according to Patrick Savage, director of the Keio University CompMusic Lab in Fujisawa, Japan, you can create a very meaningful list by talking to your loved ones and identifying songs that remind you of memories you shared.
So I started threading between my multinational brothers and sisters with two questions: “Which songs remind you of the Fathers?” and “Do you have a memory attached to any song on your list?”
Their answers revealed what I did not know about my father. Mom texted Dad saying he was in love with the Beach Boys “Surfing Safari,” and then tried to sift through and failed (as can be seen on the cheek.) And my brother-in-law stepped in and remembered my dad trying to figure out how to get to the “Boot Scootin ‘Boogie” and almost brought out half of the people dancing.
I added each song to the Spotify playlist which I called “Dad” and encouraged my brothers to add it to the line. Luckily for my family who are sometimes unskilled, making the list was easy with just a few clicks to add music, share a list, and collaborate. In this way, creating a playlist became a way for the whole family to communicate – it was a change from the days when you had to buy music, create a mixtape, and send it to everyone in the family.