40 Years, 40 Songs! A Musical 40th Birthday!


I love music and I have been known to break out in a song during a conversation when someone says something that reminds me of song lyrics or if the conversation reminds me of a song period. At work, one of the nurses always jokes about me making a “CCTHENP playlist” and I have been known to get a little carried away with my singing when I think no one is listening. Ha! Whoever came up with the saying of "I love Jesus and trap music" must have been reading my mind because that pretty much sums up my music tastes! Maybe not "trap" but definitely "rap". My friend says that I am righteous and ratchet (in a good way, lol). I guess she's right!

Music is a big part of who I am. It inspires and motivates me. It also changes my mood or attitude, good or bad. I love lyrics but I really love beats and music. I admit that sometimes I can ignore terrible lyrics for a cold beat. It has been that way for 40 years now! When pondering how I wanted to write about my 40th birthday, I decided, why not musically! Though 40 songs may seem like a lot, it was hard narrowing this list down as it could have easily been more. So here is my 40 for 40. 40 songs that have impacted me over these 40 years on earth!

The Early Years (1980-1989)



1. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. For as long as I can remember I have been a fan of Mary Poppins. Who else do you know who is practically perfect in every way? After all these years, she is still my favorite character. I am still trying to figure out why snapping my fingers doesn't work for my children. Ha!

2. Balm in Gilead. Waaaaayyyy before I knew what a balm in Gilead was, I loved the song and to this day I love the Clark Sisters!! My mom and I listened to their (clears throat) cassette tapes on repeat! They are the greatest female group ever.

3. No Charge. In gospel music, it is not uncommon to tell a story within the song and nobody does that better than the legend herself, Shirley Caesar. The song tells the story of a mother and a son. The mother wants the son to help out around the house and the son agrees but he wants to be paid for the chores. Well, there came a time when I decided that I wanted to be compensated for my chores or whatever it was, and upon saying this to my mom, she began to sing the words of this song to me. Now that I think about it, I believe my tendency to break out in song during conversations comes from her. Ha!

4. You’re All I Need to Get By. Since I am doing this by songs, I was forced to pick one but, to be honest, I find it impossible to pick just one song by this musical genius. I owe my appreciation for Marvin Gaye to my dad. This duet with Tammie Terrell was my first dance song at my wedding.

5. Smooth Criminal. Frankly, there are too many songs to choose just one from the greatest entertainer of all time, the late great Michael Jackson. As a lifelong Michael Jackson fan, his movie, Michael Jackson Moonwalker was a favorite in our household! The video of Smooth Criminal had me practicing unrealistic dance moves and I really wanted to know if Annie was ok!


6. My Prerogative. I must have been 9 or 10 and I remember thinking, “now this is a big word” and I loved it! After looking it up, I happily added the new word to my vocabulary and let anyone who wanted to listen know. It is still my favorite Bobby Brown song and that whole album was full of hits!

7. Dial My Heart. The Boys, a group that I would have loved to see more from and with so much potential. Their debut album was nothing but hits and for a while, they were my favorite boy group. I may have even pretended to be Hakeem’s Lucky Charm. Ha!

8. A Change is Gonna Come. I recall hearing this Sam Cooke song at a very young age courtesy of my dad and I am still not sure why it resonates so much with me. I find myself singing it when I feel heavy or when dealing with some difficult situations. When I start belting out that “I was born by the river” my husband will interject, “no you weren’t” and it immediately lightens the mood.

9. Parents Just Don’t Understand. Before my favorite male entertainer became an actor in one of my all-time favorite TV sitcoms or an actor in any of my favorite movies he was a rapper and I was here for it. Will Smith. I don’t remember what I didn’t think my parents understood at 9 or 10 but it must have been something. Ha!


The Adolescent Years (1990-1999)


10. Tootsie Roll. You could go ahead and throw in Da Dip and Scrub the Ground in there too. Coming of age in the 90s means you love “booty music”! In my room with my “boom box,” it would be on with The 69 Boyz and more.

11. Swing My Way. It was late high school I believe, that I truly knew that I could pursue a rap career if I wanted, LOL! That was when a hip hop duo named K.P & Envyi released Swing My Way and to this day, if this song comes on, get ready because I am going to rap every word.

12. He’s Able. Most people probably fell in love with Kirk Franklin through Why We Sing. Though I like this song too, it was He’s Able that solidified Kirk Franklin’s place in my tape player, CD player, and Amazon Music playlist to this very day. If I had to pick one artist to listen to for the rest of my life, it would be Kirk Franklin. His music transcends genres and stereotypes.

13. Real Love. I believe that I was in the 6th or 7th grade when I first heard the soulful voice that was a combination of strength and vulnerability. I was hooked! In my mind, Mary J. Blige was my homegirl! In reality, I could not really relate to many of the songs at the time but that didn’t stop me from memorizing, singing, and dancing to every one of them from the What’s the 411 album and beyond.

14. U Can’t Touch This. I don’t recall exactly how I became a typewriter dancing, Hammer pants wearing MC Hammer fan through my adolescence but I was. As a matter of fact, turn on some MC Hammer hits right now and I will rap every word and enjoy every moment as if I am still in middle school. I even made my mom a fan of the song Pray. Ha!

15. 400 Degreez. Before Back That Thang Up became the universal favorite of all of us who were in college in the late 90s and early 2000s there was 400 Degreez. A song by Juvenile that could instantly make my head bob from the moment the first chord was played.

16. Jump. This song had my cousins and I rapping fast, jumping around, and wearing our overalls with one side undone. Mac Daddy was my favorite, may he RIP. Our fascination with this Kris Kross almost got us Totally Krossed Out by our grandmother. Ha!

17. Funkdafied. This song had me searching for definitions that were not even in Webster and made me an instant fan of DaBrat. I couldn’t rap this song too much though because “funk” could be interpreted as a “bad” word with similar letters.


18. Heavenly Choir. The Canton Spirituals are the quartet gospel blueprint in my mind as I have “known” them all of my life. As a favorite in my household growing up, I still find comfort in their music, and when the mood strikes I will blast my favorite album of theirs, Live in Memphis which includes this track of fantastic storytelling for which I have an affinity.

19. Almost Doesn’t Count. My dad had variations of this sentiment that he instilled in me from childhood. No matter the subject matter, it is important to do whatever you do fully and to do your best. By late high school, the R & B sensation, Brandy came along and put the sentiment to music.

20. Don’t Take it Personal. Monica provided me with permission to be in my feelings as a teenager when I felt like it! This was fine so long as it didn’t involve the adults in my life. Ha!

21. What about Your Friends? Really, you could insert almost any early TLC song here and it is likely that my cousins and I performed it. I was Chili in our group. Sweet memories of adolescence with wearing our hats to the back with colorful baggy ensembles.

22. Jesus is Alive and Well. Lee Williams was the coolest quartet leader that I have ever seen. He had swag before it was even made a word. Growing up in the era where quartet “singings” were all the rave, I have attended my fair share. Lee Williams & the Spiritual QCs are still a standout.


23. The Most Beautiful Girl in the World. If you are 40 and from the south you have probably heard of Raheem Da Dream. In the 90s, booty music was king! The lyrics weren’t always the best but the beats were on point! My friends may remember our dance contests. I won! Ha!

24. Jesus, You’ve Been Good to Me. Quartet gospel, there is nothing like it. It was a staple in our household. It is as uplifting as it is entertaining, especially if it was done by Willie Neal Johnson and the Gospel Keynotes.

25. In the Midst of it All. Here’s a little known fact. I wanted to sing like Yolanda Adams growing up (and now, truth be told, lol). She is “if I could sing like someone was a person”. Her voice is powerful, angelic, and anointed. Needless to say, I didn’t get that gift. Ha!


The Early Young Adult Years (2000-2009)

26. Go Get It. These ladies have inspired, motivated, and nurtured my faith since they first burst on the scene in my freshman or sophomore year of college! None other than Mary, Mary, they are easily my favorite duo of all time of any genre. I am also a fan of their solo efforts.

27. Kingdom Come, the song and the album. He’s my favorite rapper but my favorite song was from one of his lesser acclaimed albums. That doesn’t matter to me though, Jay-Zs upbeat, motivational, and confident lyrics got me through the standardized testing of my nursing career.


28. You Got it Bad. Maybe you can relate if you have ever been in true love, a song on continuous repeat? When I realized this, I knew that I had it bad and Usher was right. Great thing that I married him.

29. Love of My Life. “A friend became the love of my life.” Erykah Badu and Common summed us up in a nutshell. This song was used in our wedding slideshow. After all, we first met in junior high school.

30. Stay with You. All it took was one album to make me a lifelong fan of John Legend. This song is one of my favorites and served as inspiration as a young married couple.

31. All Falls Down. Giving credit where credit is due. Kanye West did his thing on College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation. For a long time, he was on my top 5 rapper list. I miss the Kanye of these albums.

32. Love Story. I never thought of myself as a country music fan but the second Taylor Swift album changed my mind. I credit her with expanding my music palette. I may have been around 28 years old or so. Better late than never right?

33. I am Not My Hair. This is the song that made my mom somewhat of an India Arie fan. We played it on repeat after I introduced it to her as she was battling ovarian cancer. It is one of the songs that I can still listen to that evokes memories of my mom.

34. Strength, Courage, and Wisdom. An ode to resilience and perseverance, the lyrics resonate. Since her debut in 2001, India Arie is like my soul sister in my head and one of my favorite artists with her music that mimics life and tells of trials and triumphs.

35. Cupid Shuffle. It makes the list because at 40 you like what you like and you like “slide songs”. Cupids Cupid Shuffle is my favorite slide song followed by ChaCha Slide and Wobble.


36. Top Back. I have never had a drop-top but that didn’t stop me from playing along. TI has what I like to call “easy music”. He’s easy to understand and the beats are on point. Your head will nod or your shoulders will bounce. It has been that way since 2001 at least and I’m Serious.

37. Woman. After college but early in marriage, I was introduced to the “Love King”, Raheem Devaughn. When he is not singing love focused songs, he’s empowering and uplifting others. What I really like about him is that he is consistent and that makes him one of my favorite R&B artists.


The Not So Young, Young Adult Years (2010-2019)

38. Facts. I was introduced to this artist later in life by a dear friend and instantly became a fan of him and his music. Lecrae is one of my favorite rappers and the song Facts adeptly illustrates the complexity and diversity of his talent.

39. Formation. I almost changed to do this by artists instead of songs because one song does not seem to do this artist justice or to sufficiently convey her impact since stampeding on the scene in 1999. Confidence. Liberation. Inspiration. Self-awareness. Self-love. Beyonce Giselle Knowles Carter.

40. Crooked Smile. When J. Cole dropped his first album I was already in my 30s and had a solid top 5 rappers list. And it wasn’t the first album that did it for me, it was the second one with this empowering and encouraging track along with many others. Change really can happen at any age.


I’m 40 and it feels so good! It is such a blessing to have made it to see this milestone. I pray that I keep going for 40 more years. I’d like to see what that music list would look like. Here’s to being 40 and fierce and 40 and fabulous. Living, loving, laughing, and leaving a legacy. How's that for a CCTHENP playlist? #moodforever


What is your favorite song or who is your favorite artist on the list? Are there any songs or artists that you are surprised to see? Are there any who you think are missing? What songs have impacted or helped to shape your life?


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