I discovered classic rock in the early 1990s, my high school years. As my teens wore on, I realized that I was enjoying less and less the R&B and rap that the remaining radio station of my childhood played. By the middle of my high school years, the stations that played what I considered good music of that time period were gone. MTV still played music in the mornings, and they had the show where they played the most requested videos of the day that came on in the early evening. I watched a lot of that, especially during school breaks when I was home in the morning. But when I was listening to the radio while in my room doing homework, or in the car once I started driving, I wasn’t finding anything I liked among the numerous R&B, rap, country, and Spanish-language stations that Monterey County was in range of at the time. There were a couple of classic rock stations, playing rock music from a time period that spanned from the mid-1960s (my parents’ teen years) to the mid-1980s (my childhood). Most of these songs were before my time, and I didn’t remember them. Some of them were by artists I had never heard of. But I came to discover that I enjoyed it. Good music.
Some of these songs remained background music to me for decades, coming up every once in a while while flipping around the radio, without me actually paying close attention to the lyrics. And sometimes, I will actually listen closely to the lyrics of a song like this for the first time, and I’ll have a sudden realization and find some meaning in the song that I had never found before.
Like this one.
Running On Empty was first released in 1977. I don’t remember 1977. I wasn’t old enough to eat solid food or wipe my own butt in 1977. I probably was in high school listening to classic rock radio in the car when I first heard this song. Or possibly it might have been while watching Forrest Gump, during the montage in which Forrest is running across the country; that movie was released a few months after I graduated from high school. But I think I already knew of the song’s existence by then.
And I did have some idea what the song was about. Life on the road. Constantly moving from one place to another with no clear destination. And that is a feeling I know well. Sometimes I don’t know where my life is going. Sometimes I feel like my direction and goals are unclear. And I literally spent four months on the road in 2005 trying to find myself, not knowing the specifics of where I was going more than a week or so in advance at the most.
But then, a couple years ago, the song came on, and one part of the lyrics really stuck out to me, at the end of the third verse:
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too…
I see them running too. Everyone around me has their own struggle to find their destination and meaning in life. It’s not just me. I’m not alone.
Knowing that doesn’t always help me find my answers or my destination. But it still helps to know that my struggles are not unique, and that there are others running on the same road I am.