There comes a point in almost every conversation when a phrase turns into a melody. And I don’t think I’m alone with this occurrence. For in the midst of doctor waiting rooms, kitchen table conversations and hallway discussions, the placement of words in just the right order awakens a tune in the memory.

Recently, I was accompanying a husband and wife in their doctor appointment. While reviewing current medications, recent aches and pains and updates on care with the physician, the husband would sometimes be distracted and his short-term memory loss was getting the best of him. He couldn’t recall the name of the nurse that had just done his vitals (neither could I, for that matter) and his wife lovingly picked on him to try and remember her name — since he had read her name badge. All he could say was, “It was a pretty girl.”

Needless to say, his wife perked up and said, “Her name was what?”

He said, “A pretty girl…”

“…is like a melody,” I added lyrically.

“A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody” was a popular song written by Irving Berlin in 1919 that became the theme for the Ziegfeld Follies. With the introduction of a lyric into all of the confusion discussing a pretty girl’s name during a medical appointment, the husband immediately started laughing and the wife began singing the tune. Instant mood-changer.

Instead of concentrating on memory-loss issues, they both were on common ground with a familiar lyric. As a general rule, this couple relies heavily on quick wit and humor for their successful marriage of almost 70 years. They pick on each other and are playful, but the memory loss can often tip the scales and lead to frustration. He will often exclaim, “But I am behaving, aren’t I?”.

One time, he said this while waiting for labs to be drawn and it turned into, “Ain’t Misbehaving, Saving My Love for You”, a popular 1929 Fats Waller standard. The mood became lighter and instantly childhood memories of their moms, who liked to sing and to fill their homes with song, were mentioned. Suddenly, they were having way more fun than should be allowed in a medical waiting room.


Do you think in song lyrics? Have you found lyrics an easy way to lighten the mood or bring back a fond memory? I’d love to hear how you link song lyrics in your life. Please contact me at to share your stories.