Mack loved to sing. She sang in the shower in the mornings before school. She sang in her bedroom while dancing on the bed. She sang to music blasting into her ears through her headphones in the backseat on car trips, oblivious to the existence of fellow travelers. She sang on the school bus on her way to out-of-town sporting events, leading her teammates in song and distracting them from the homework they should have been doing instead. But when Mack got her driver’s license, her old Jeep Wrangler became her favorite stage. She would roll down the windows, crank up the tunes, and sing with enough volume to overcome both the music and the Jeep’s rumbly engine. Mack was happy to serenade anyone within earshot. Carefree and unbothered about how people in the surrounding cars might judge her singing voice or her song choices, she would belt out her favorite tunes in Mack-crazy style.
I loved to listen to Mack sing. I loved how she would hum a pop tune while brushing her teeth or rap to Eminem in the grocery store. I loved pressing my ear against her bedroom door to listen to her sing and strum one of her guitars. I loved her singing with friends in the backseat of the car when I chauffeured them to the movies or to summer basketball tournaments. It was always a hoot to listen to them giggle and sing to twangy country songs like “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” or croon like divas to Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.” I loved it when Mack’s exuberant voice filled our loft with Broadway show tunes on weekend trips home from college. When Mack sang, I was always entertained and amused, but singing with Mack was one of my favorite pastimes with her. She had a magical ability to pull people along for a warble; and when you sang along with that kid, she carried you with her to her Mack-happy plane of existence.
Over the years, Mack and I did a lot of singing together. When were alone in the car, I shared my favorites from the 1980s, and she got me hooked on Taylor Swift and Kanye West. We would sing so loudly that we couldn’t even hear the music. In the kitchen while chopping vegetables or doing dishes at the sink, we would sing Disney songs (“A Whole New World” was one of our favorites), and every crescendo featured Mack dancing with veggies or the dishes. We sang our own stupid original songs, we sang to our pets, and our birthday serenades were the stuff of family legend.
After losing Mack, I stopped singing. During work commutes from St. Louis to Springfield, I kept the dial on NPR, not at all tempted to blast my special ‘80s mix created especially for those weekly trips. Even during two long, solo driving trips to North Carolina and Nebraska this summer, I did not pass the time with music or singing. Grief has a way of stifling your enthusiasm for the things that used to make you happy, and singing in the car was one of those things I just stopped doing. But last week, on the way home from Springfield, when I was about fifteen miles from home, I changed the dial from St. Louis Public Radio to KSHE 95. The NPR story did not have my attention, and without thinking about it I hit one of the programmed buttons on the car stereo. Just as soon as the station changed, the familiar piano introduction to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” sucked me in, and before I knew it I was tapping my foot and preparing for the introductory lyrics. I turned up the volume, and I sang the entire song at the top of my lungs…just like Mack and I always did.
After the song was over, I remembered how much I loved to sing in the car. I remembered how much Mack loved to sing in the car. And I remembered that Mack had written a music blog for her college radio station that offered her top ten list of songs to sing at the top of your lungs. It is a very good list, complete with several of the favorites that she and I shared as well as a couple of more obscure Mack-like selections. Singing with Mack was a joy to me, and singing with Mack is also a cherished memory for many of her friends. Therefore, I offer up that top-ten list, complete with internet links below, so that anyone who wishes it can sing along with Mack in spirit. And since I can now sing in the car again, I will keep all of Mack’s favorites at the ready, sing them at the top of my lungs, and let Mack transport me over and over again to her Mack-happy plane of existence.
Top Ten Songs to Scream at the Top of Your Lungs (for KTRM Radio website) by Mackenzie McDermott
There is great music with amazing lyrics, music with really awesome beats, and super artsy and unique music. What kind you enjoy is completely a matter of taste. However, there is a certain type of song that magically creates an insatiable need to roll down the windows of your car and scream every lyric, even if you only know the chorus. It might not always be the best music—sometimes it’s even pretty bad—but this is the music that unites us all.
- “Bohemian Rhapsody”—Queen. I have never met a single person who can hear this six-minute rock epic without bursting into song. It’s inevitable, and it’s even better when there are multiple people rocking out to it in a car so that someone can sing every part, and no one is allowed to leave. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ9rUzIMcZQ)
- “Oops I Did It Again”—Brittney Spears. Call this a “guilty pleasure” all you want, but there are two kinds of people in this word: those who admit to jamming to this whenever it comes on and liars. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CduA0TULnow)
- “No Scrubs”—TLC. This song is like listening to the ‘90s, and not singing along to its impossibly awesome chorus should be against every law. Roll down the windows and let it all out, because you don’t want no scrub. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrLequ6dUdM).
- “Hold On”—Wilson Phillips. Here’s one that isn’t necessarily a conventionally “good” song, but when you hear it you can’t help but sing the three lines of the chorus you know and mumble along to the rest. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIbXvaE39wM)
- Don’t Stop Believin’—Journey. ‘80s rock ballads will always be the perfect road trip music. With its up-beat music, super catchy lyrics, and awesome notes that everyone can totally hit (haha, Mack…not!), Don’t Stop Believin’ is an all-star screaming-in-your-car-song. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k8craCGpgs)
- Sweet Caroline—Neil Diamond. The uncontrollable urge to scream BUM BUM BUMM during this song is overwhelming. It’s almost as if Neil Diamond has taken over your body and you are no longer in charge of your actions. It’s awesome. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vhFnTjia_I)
- Livin’ on a Prayer—Bon Jovi. Whether it’s in the shower, a commute to work or just jamming out in your bedroom, Jon Bon Jovi knows how to make people want to jump around on their bed and sing at the top of their lungs. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDK9QqIzhwk)
- Tainted Love—Soft Cell. This cover is so ‘80s that it hurts. And it hurts so good. Synthesizers and ridiculous lyrics make this song get stuck in your head in the worst possible way. You can’t help but drum along to this one. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsMz9vIaLwQ)
- Bille Jean—Michael Jackson. Michael is great for so many reasons that don’t involve how much people like to sing along to his songs at the highest possible volume. Billie Jean is just one of the many of his songs that are perfect for this list and every other list ever. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zi_XLOBDo_Y)
- Say My Name—Destiny’s Child. Last, but certainly not least, is ‘90s girl band awesomeness. Similar to “No Scrubs,” this is a rock-out jam that makes you happy to be a woman, and you just can’t help but sing along. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQgd6MccwZc)
And some additional links for your listening pleasure…
A Family Birthday Serenade recorded for Savannah (https://youtu.be/dy2_eVr_JrM).
“Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off”—Joe Nichols (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj2700em-JQ)
“A Whole New World” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kl4hJ4j48s)
Ok people, now go sing at the top of your lungs…It is exactly what Mack would want you to do.