A 25th Anniversary Mixtape Playlist for Cari McGee

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Today I celebrate 25 years of marriage to Cari McGee, the most wonderful human being God ever made. There were times when it didn’t look like we were gonna make it 25 months, much less years, but here we are thanks to God’s grace and a lot of hard work to make our marriage work, survive and thrive.

We started dating in 1987 and, like most guys (and maybe girls, too?) who had a girlfriend in the ’80s, I used to make Cari mixtapes. (C’mon, you know you did, too. Mixtapes were the best, and for all the amazing things the internet has brought into our lives, we also need to remember that it killed the mixtape, and that’s borderline unforgiveable.)

Anyway, these mixtapes were songs that reminded me of Cari … songs that we both loved … songs that said something across the miles … songs that, for one reason or another, played an important role in the early days of our relationship. I made a bunch of them — some that I kept for myself and played while I was home from college for the summer, and at least a couple that I sent to her in California, or brought with me for our next year together at Pepperdine.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been thinking about doing something special for Cari for our 25th anniversary (beyond our anniversary trip) and one day it dawned on me: MAKE HER A MIXTAPE! YES! Obviously we can’t make an actual tape; they stopped making and selling cassette decks and blank tapes like ages ago, but I figured I can use the internet to make the next best thing.

So below I present my wonderful wife with a modern-day mixtape, created on Spotify: 25 Songs for our 25th Anniversary. She’ll know why all these songs are included, but our kids won’t and most anyone else that reads this won’t, either. So I’ll include a few quick comments below to explain things.

Stand By Me: This was our wedding dance song. It was an embarassing, junior prom-like slow dance. But it was our first as husband and wife, and nothing else matters.

If You Leave: The main theme song from Pretty In Pink, the movie we watched on what became our first date on March 19, 1987.

I Melt With You: No special meaning, just a song that we both love and included on several mixtapes while we were dating.

Coming Up Close: I used to take the lyrics of this song and spin them into poems during our college years, and give the poems to Cari. At the time, the poems seemed Very Deep and Meaningful. Today, we’d call them “overly melodramatic” … “emo” … or maybe just “really lame.”

California Dreamin’: Another frequent mixtape song, especially when I was at home in Pennsylvania and missing Cari on the other side of the country.

Romeo And Juliet: One of the saddest love songs of all time, but one that we both love and sang/sing regularly when we hear it.

Just Got Lucky: One day not too long ago, we discovered that both of us loved this song in the ’80s. And now, about once a month or so, we can be found dancing around the house with this playing loudly … much to the kids’ embarrassment.

(I Just) Died In Your Arms: A popular mixtape choice, and the No. 1 song in the U.S. shortly after we first started dating.

Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody: A favorite during our dating years for the irony that I was never anything close to a gigolo.

Carrie: Duh. Obvious choice, right? I was always jealous that Cari had a song named after her, even if the spelling was different. I used to joke that Susanna Hoffs (of The Bangles) had written a song about me called “Matthew,” but never released it because she was broken-hearted after I dumped her. Actually, I still tell that joke. I need to get over this.

Say Once More: Every couple has an “our song.” We’ve had a few, in my opinion, but I think this one was the first one we considered our song.

Walking On Sunshine: One of Cari’s favorites and a song that will always remind me of her from start to finish.

Sister Christian: This was apparently an important family song between Cari and her brothers … it’s a long story, actually. In a nutshell, Cari was “Sister Christian” in high school and so this song often made it on my mixtapes.

Same Old Lang Syne: OMG, one of the five or ten saddest songs ever. But one that we’ve often sung together over the years when it gets played at Christmas.

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles): To help repair our marriage in the early days, I once drove non-stop from Twin Falls, Idaho, to see Cari in Hacienda Heights, California. That’s about 750 miles one way. The marriage was repaired and when this came on the radio in the years since then, we’d sing “I would drive 500 miles….”

At This Moment: Another sad one, but we used to love watching Family Ties together. In the ’80s, I looked a lot like Michael J. Fox, and this one became a favorite for both of us.

Don’t Dream It’s Over: A favorite for both of us that was on several mixtapes.

Come Dancing: OMG, it would take forever to explain all the jokes and fun we’ve had with this song over the years — goofy, little husband/wife memes that make no sense to anyone else, but never fail to put a smile on our faces.

San Jose: Another regular mixtape choice for the California connection.

My Girl: “I got sunshine on a cloudy day.” Those seven words perfectly explain how I feel about Cari.

It Must Be Love: Madness was such an underrated band, and we both loved this one. A mixtape favorite.

Mr. Jones: Hehehehehehe. LOLOLOLOLOL

My Eyes Adored You: Just about a year ago, we went to see the musical, Jersey Boys, in Las Vegas with good friends and we were all surprised by how many Frankie Valli/Four Seasons songs we knew and had forgotten over the years. We all got home from the trip and immediately bought a bunch of their songs on iTunes, but this one is my favorite of the bunch. Let the ’70s cheesiness play loudly!

Back In The High Life: We both went through a little Steve Winwood phase during our Pepperdine years together. I recall many afternoons driving up and down Pacific Coast Highway with Cari while this whole album played loudly and we sang together.

The Best Was Yet To Come: Not only was this a favorite of both of ours, but the title sums up where we are, even after 25 great years together.

That’s it. I really could’ve put 50 more songs on here, and there were a few important ones that are missing due to Spotify vs. artist limitations. I’m sad, for example, that Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” isn’t available on Spotify. There’s also nothing from a little-known band called The Fat Lady Sings — their song “Arclight” was a favorite of ours in the 1990s, especially. And I could go on….

But despite the limitations, I love this modern-day mixtape. My love, I hope you do, too. Happy 25th anniversary. Thanks for making my heart sing all these years.

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