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Do Couples Need To Like The Same Kind Of Music?

What one woman has to say on this matter.

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A violin and electric guitar on two different backgrounds mashed into one instrument
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I fell in love with Steve when he serenaded me with his steel guitar. We were sitting cross-legged on the floor of his studio apartment. He tuned the strings on his Yamaha and began to pick the famous acoustic intro to “Stairway to Heaven,” one of rock’s most revered songs, nearly eight minutes long.

I was impressed — until he began to sing. Steve had many admirable traits, but crooning wasn’t one of them. He even admitted to being tone-deaf. He made Dylan sound like a trained opera singer.

Yet he played Led Zeppelin’s iconic masterpiece as if on stage. His guitar teacher taught it to him in high school after Steve asked to play something contemporary rather than classical. It wasn’t exactly the love song I’d expected, but it wooed me. I chose to believe that he’d never played that song for anyone but me.

At our wedding, I selected “Here, There, and Everywhere,” a favorite and more typical Beatles’ romantic song to accompany us down the aisle. On my husband’s wedding ring, I engraved “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” a love song by Stevie Wonder.

Early in our marriage, Steve turned me on to his favorite musicians, including Jackson Browne and Neil Young. Then, one day, our joint tastes started to change. I grew tired of classic rock, preferring the gentler lilts of female singer-songwriters.

Once, as carpoolers for three middle-school soccer players, Steve put on Dylan’s “Desolation Row,” which is over 11 minutes long. The girls were asleep in the back seat, but suddenly, our daughter woke up to a nightmare: endless Dylan, whom she claimed had the worst voice ever. To this day, she still jokes about how desolate that car ride was.

When she was a teenager, I didn’t want to turn into my parents, who often complained, “Turn down that awful music.” I was thrilled when our daughter gravitated toward my taste for Broadway show soundtracks. Together we harmonized from Rent and Hamilton.

Steve’s music preferences broadened when he fell in love with Taylor Swift. Yet he remained a devoted Dylan-Springsteen-Petty-Stones kind of guy. I’d hear his off-key singing, “Born in the U.S.A.,” from the shower or his home office. Sometimes, I donned my headphones. Steve and I are happily married, yet in the Venn Diagram of our current musical tastes, there is only a small intersection of strongly shared preferences. This turned into a problem during long car trips.

Our daughter found a solution. She’d plug her iPhone into the car and give all three of us equal turns requesting a song. She was the DJ, programming each selection on Spotify. Whenever it was Steve’s turn, I’d silently hope not Tom Petty again! But fair is fair. And Steve never objected to listening to Joni Mitchell for the umpteenth time. When it was time for Beyonce, we all moved to the beat despite our seatbelts.

Our daughter introduced us to contemporary musicians like Phoebe Bridgers and Haim. Once in a while, we all belted out one of our selected songs. One family favorite is Sondheim’s “I love you so/it’s like I’m losing my mind.” No one makes fun of Steve’s creaky voice, and everyone acts surprised when I say I was in the Glee Club in high school.

Today, Steve rarely takes out his guitar, but whenever we hear “Stairway,” we hold hands and listen intently, gazing at each other and recalling how we fell in love. He rarely chooses “Stairway” in the car, but the song is embedded in our ears, our souls and our togetherness. The song’s meaning has been debated for decades, but it doesn’t matter if we can’t agree on the underlying message of our quirky love song. It brought us together and solidified our marriage with a special memory and bond. Whenever our daughter joins us on a car ride, she listens to all our requests. Except for “Desolation Row,” we are a harmonious family.

This special issue of The Girlfriend is devoted to music and how it shapes — and strengthens — our memories. For more on this topic from AARP, including videos, events and memory games, visit aarp.org/musicandmemory

Do you and your partner share the same musical tastes? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Lifestyle