We all have it -- that one song that stopped us in our tracks the first time we ever heard it, that continues to give us pause each and every time it's played. In our periodic feature, Deep Cuts, we share the personal stories behind our all-time favorite songs and how and why we came to love them. This time, Antonio Valenzuela waxes about Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again," a song that most of us associate with Tawny Kitean writhing seductively on the hood of a Jaguar, but one that takes on an entirely different meaning for him.
Sitting in a Denver city jail cell, face bloodied and in handcuffs, I made a vow to myself to change my life. I came to a breaking point of complete frustration and desperation, in which change was necessary, no matter the cost. My life was like standing on the edge of a cliff watching as everyone foolishly kept jumping off. Finally, before reaching the edge and taking a leap myself, I decided to resist the herd mentality and step out of line.
Five years later, when I first overheard Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" on my roommate's stereo, the words rang in my head. The introspective words pulled me in because they felt like they were written just for me: "I don't know where I'm going/But I sure know where I've been/Hanging on the promises, in songs of yesterday." That embodied my entire perspective at the time from the turn my life had taken.
I didn't listen to classic rock of any sort until my late teens, so I'd never heard Whitesnake. My distaste for the music was really just an instinctual defense mechanism, a way of shielding myself from the pain that was attached to the music. As a child who witnessed violent abuse at the hands of men who listened to that music, I associated it with them, and therefore just avoided it altogether. Instead, I gravitated to hip-hop. It was a voice I could identify with because it reflected the pain in my life.
So when I first heard "Here I Go Again," it hit me like a punch to the gut. There was no stigma attached to it for me. I instantly identified with words like "But I've made up my mind/I ain't wasting no more time/Here I go again on my own," and sentiments like "Oh Lord, I pray you give me strength to carry on/'cause I know what it means/To walk along the lonely street of dreams."
That was my story. I had encountered one obstacle after another up to this point, and I felt alone as I pursued my dreams. With layers of uncertainty, I had enrolled in my first semester of college. With the exception of my girlfriend, who insisted, "You are way too smart not to go to college," many of the friends I grew up with in the streets dismissed my aspirations as being a "sellout." I hadn't made many new friends yet, so my first year of college was spent mostly studying and working. The chorus of that song seemed as though someone had tapped directly into my soul and translated my angst into melodies and harmonies.