Our brains do amazing things while we sleep: solve problems, sort out emotions, file memories, make non-linear associations that our conscious, more logical brains can’t manage.
Mine also plays music. I wake up most mornings with a tune playing in my head. It happens to my wife occasionally, too — last Sunday, she woke up with “Baby Come Back” by Player running through her mind, while I woke up humming the theme song from Men in Black.
“Men in Black?” she said when I told her. “Where did that come from?”
I had no idea. The last time I heard it was probably in 1997, when the movie came out and it was all over the airwaves. I’ve never seen the film again, or any of its sequels.
Digital subscriptions make indulging musical whims easy, so while I made breakfast that morning, I put on “Baby Come Back” (and realized just how awful the lyrics are), followed by the theme from Men in Black.
“Huh,” I said when it finished. “I didn’t remember that it was a rap song. I don’t like any part of it but the chorus.” Which was, of course, the bit that had been running through my brain radio upon waking.
In case you don’t recall the theme, here it is. No need to listen past the first 33 seconds unless you love either rap or Will Smith (or both).
Shrugging, I set my phone to the playlist I had been listening to while working over the weekend: a curated list of R&B favorites from the 1980s.
Now, R&B fans probably know where this is going. In my defense, I’ll say that I came to my love of R&B late in life. In my youth, I went straight from the Carpenters to Heart and Quarterflash, and then to Sting, Kate Bush, and Vivaldi, skipping right over R&B until a few decades later.
So I had no idea that the chorus for the Men in Black theme was ripped directly from a 1982 hit by Patrice Rushen — until it started to play while I was stirring milk into the oatmeal.
I stopped, mouth open, then laughed and called out to my wife, “I know why I woke up with the Men in Black theme song!”
“I do, too!” she called back.
I’ve since downloaded this song into my library. It’s an awesome tune, with none of that pesky rap interrupting the bluesy goodness. Once again I am agog at the ability of the unconscious brain to draw connections the conscious brain cannot. I hadn’t heard the movie’s theme song in ages, yet my brain remembered and drew the lines.
Or perhaps I should say, my unconscious brain sent me a forget-me-not.