So, the next question you’re probably asking is: “In what capacity?” I was asked to provide the music for the funeral service. Now, that isn’t as uncommon as you might think. I’d provided music in a similar circumstance before; an older man had passed away, and he was a huge Sinatra fan, so I played Sinatra songs for a few hours while friends and family reminisced. However, the circumstances for this particular job would be a bit different.
You see, my colleague’s family member had died in a tragically unique kind of way. He was an avid parachutist, and as you might imagine, he died when his parachute failed to open. What would make this particular funeral service interesting was the fact that it would be held at the very airfield where he’d fallen to his death.
Now, DJing in an open field is no big deal, provided there’s electricity available, which there was. However, I failed to consider that the airfield would still be “open”, which meant that other skydiving enthusiasts would be jumping that day. If you’ve never actually heard a parachute coming down to earth, it is surprisingly loud. The wind buffeting against the material of the parachute makes a loud, billowing sound, similar to the sound you could achieve as a kid when you taped baseball cards to your bike so they’d hit the spokes as you pedaled.
While there, you couldn’t help but think about how this poor, nice man had died. He’d left a loving family behind. Sure, he’d passed away doing what he loved, but the thought of plummeting to his death… it was difficult. Of course, it was impossible not to think about it, because there were skydivers landing all over the place the entire time.
Equally interesting was the choice of music. It turns out the man whose life we were honoring was a big fan of the movie Top Gun. I was asked to play songs from the soundtrack. So, try to picture this scene from the afternoon: We’re there, celebrating the life of a man who’d died while skydiving, at the very place where he’d passed away while skydiving, while hearing parachutes zooming toward earth at a constant pace, during which we’re hearing “…Highway to the Danger Zone!” It was surreal.
It was amusing when several guests, throughout the afternoon, approached me to suggest that perhaps I should play some different music. There are certainly a few mellow songs on the soundtrack, but I couldn’t play Berlin’s Take My Breath Away over and over again. That’s when, as a DJ, you calmly explain that the hosts have made the musical choices.
Every once in a while, we DJs are put in an awkward position when it comes to certain music or announcement requests. I’m reminded of the wedding I’d done a long time ago. It seems that the groom was intent on taking the bride’s last name, instead of the bride taking his, or each keeping their own last name. The cute thing was, they hadn’t told their family, so the first time they’d hear this was when I announced them for the first time. You can imagine the looks shot my way; they ranged from “dude, you totally screwed that up” to “what in God’s name is happening?” Equally amusing was the request I’d received once from a bride and groom regarding their processional music. In the past, a standard song for a bride and groom’s exit from the ceremony after their big kiss would be something from the Classical genre, like Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring or Debussy’s Claire de Lune. This couple thought it’d be awesome to kick things off with a little Kool & the Gang. Picture it: Grandmas and Grandpas, struggling to get a picture of the newlyweds as they walk back down the aisle, and they’re serenaded by the crash of the cymbal, followed by “Get down, get down” from Jungle Boogie. No, the young couple did not head straight for their honeymoon; they stayed for the reception! Again, the heads of every guest turned in unison, as if to say: “What is that idiot DJ doing?!”
It’s never lost on me that being asked to provide my services at an event is a privilege. I’ve had the pleasure of playing music for kids when they were Bar and Bat Mitzvah’ed, then at their weddings, and again at the Mitzvahs of their kids. I’ve been blessed to be a part of the special days of so many people, and the constant thread that runs through each party is simple: Love. I get to be a part of an event where love is expressed between people, whether it’s a wedding, a Mitzvah, an anniversary or birthday party, or even a funeral service. That day that seeing people who love each other come together to celebrate that love fails to touch me is the day I pack up my equipment for good. I’ll never take the privilege for granted.