“Oh, Very Young . . . “

What are your favorite 10 songs from the year you turned 16? Let me know in the comments. It’s re-e-e-aly hard to decide, right?

Me? The year was 1974. In order by Billboard ranking, if you put a gun to my head, I guess I’d choose:

    • 5 “Dancing Machine” The Jackson 5
    • 13 “Midnight at the Oasis” Maria Muldaur
    • 22 “Band on the Run” Paul McCartney and Wings
    • 24 “Time in a Bottle” Jim Croce
    • 44 “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” Brownsville Station
    • 51 “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” Steely Dan
    • 63 “Takin’ Care of Business” Bachman-Turner Overdrive
    • 64 “Radar Love” Golden Earring
    • 70 “Oh Very Young” Cat Stevens
    • 72 “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” Elton John
    • 79 “Tubular Bells” Mike Oldfield

Next question: What was the single most important thing to happen to you at age 19?

Me, easy. I met Jennifer. We’re still together 47 years later. [There’s no emoji good enough for that.]

True story: In 2010, at age 16, a boy named Kalief Browder was arrested and charged with stealing a backpack. His family was unable to raise the $3,000 bail, so he was sent to Rikers Island. On principle, he refused to plead guilty, so he was held for 3 years, awaiting trial, before the charges were dismissed. Released at 19 years old, he returned home and committed suicide.

That’s a summation. The details are messier, his earlier probation on the one hand, the hell of that jail experience on the other. But the central story remains: At 16 he was arrested for something he didn’t do, he refused to plead guilty, he spent the next 3 teenage years jailed on Rikers Island, he was released at 19 for lack of evidence, and he went home and killed himself. He was Black.

Man, I got a lot of joy out of struggling to narrow that list of songs from age 16. Thinking about my high school years. Remembering how I followed Jenny around the restaurant where she was waiting tables the night we met.


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