Return The Love - Make A Gift to Pay Back Your Parents

How to Make a "This Is Your Life" Video

Building the Soundtrack

Building the soundtrack is one of the most fun things to do in this project.  Here are lessons I learned.  (If you just want to see recommended songs, skip to bottom of page.  My 10 most recommended ones have a *** at the beginning of song name.)

What you need:
I found iTunes to be a great asset for this.  I was able to purchase music and draw from my own library of music. 

Creating the soundtrack:

  • In general, I suggest you pick one song for each chapter.  You will want to get a rough idea of how long you want a song to be to play for the whole chapter.  Allow 3-5 seconds per picture.
  • I suggest you pick songs that your mom will associate with that time in her life.  For my mom, I knew she was a big Elvis fan, so I selected songs from Elvis for her high school days.  I used the iTunes capability to find songs that were on the best seller charts during those years so they would be from roughly the same time.  Songs we haven't heard for a long time can be a powerful reminder of the time we heard them, so use this to your advantage.
  • The tempo and lyrics from the songs are great to match with the overall feel you are trying to get with every chapter.  For example, I used "Love Me Tender" by Elvis to accompany pictures of my mom as a young girl.  For her high school days, I used a more up-tempo "Don't Be Cruel" from Elvis.  I think it is good to use songs where you can actually understand the key words in the song.
  • With a little effort, you can time certain words in songs to play with specific pictures to create a great effect.  I suggest you just put the song against the chapter and then move pictures around with some trial and effort to hit the right time.

Put your own personal touch on the music you select.  That said, here were some songs that I ended up using that you may want to consider.  Just click on the song name and a video from YouTube of the song will appear in a separate window:

Contemporary Rock / Pop

  • *** "Two of Us" by Aimee Mann(Acoustic Rock / Folk)  I used this song to accompany pictures of my mom, dad and I traveling through Europe over the years.  It is a remake of a Beatles song.
  • "We're Going to Be Friends" by The White Stripes. (Acoustic Rock)  I didn't use this song in my mom's video, but used it in other projects with nice effect.  Lyrics include "I can tell that we are going to be friends."
  • "100 Years" by Five for Fighting. (Acoustic Rock)  I used this in the final "Credits" chapter of the video to nice effect.   
  • "Hope" by Shaggy. (Pop/HipHop) Very upbeat, fast paced song that has uplifting lyrics such as "And my mama by herself raised me and my bro, Wasn't easy, but we did it with the little that go, Worked hard got us of of school every day, And kept her eyes on the stars when the skies were gray,  Gave us drive to survive, really showed us the way, Now I really understood what she was tryin' to say."
  • *** "Kind and Generous" by Natalie Merchant. (Rock/Pop)  Great song to go with pictures of ancestors.  Features words "I want to thank you, thank you" frequently.
  • *** "Carnival" by Natalie Merchant(Rock/Pop)  Great song to go with travel pictures or things like that.
  • "Praise You" by Fatboy Slim. (Pop) Can be used to same effect as "Kind and Generous" but with a faster beat.  Features lyrics "I have to praise you like I should."
  • *** "Lucky Man" by The Verve. (Rock)  I used this in other videos with my niece and nephew and in my Dad's chapter on "Grandpa-Hood". 
  • "Lifted" by Lighthouse Family. (Rock/Pop)  I used it to accompany a chapter of pictures from family skiing trips over the years.
  • "All I Want Is You" by U2.  (Rock/Pop)  Great lyrics like "all the promises we made, from the cradle to the grave, when all I want is you."  Would be good for husband or wife "this is your life" anniversary video.
  • *** "Take a Picture" by Filter.  (Rock/Pop)  Good steady beat to accompany pictures, with interesting and easy to understand lyrics.  Lyrics include: "Hey dad what do you think about your son now?"
  • "Life Less Ordinary" by Carbon Leaf.  Great lyrics starting with "Live a life less ordinary, live a life extraordinary with me."
  • "I Don't Want to Get Over You" by The Magnetic Fields.  A very quirky but catchy love song.
  • "Anyone Else But You" from the Soundtrack to the movie Juno.
  • "Closer Than Most" by The Beautiful South.  Catchy, upbeat song with chorus lyric of "Well it can take many years to forge a friendship, It can take a lifetime to get close, But we took all the shortcuts, used our hearts as a map, and we still got closer than most."
  • "Time of Your Life" by Green Day.  "I hope you had the time of your life" is a repeat refrain.

Classic Rock / Pop

  • *** "Love is All Around" by The Troggs. (Classic Rock/Pop)  Featured in the movie "Love, Actually" this song went along very well for showing pictures from when my parents started a family.  I timed the words in that song "I feel it in my fingers..." to accompany a picture of my brother getting baptised with the picture of the pastor's fingers quite prominent.  Lyrics include: "You know I love you, I always will.  My mind's made up by the way that I feel, here´s no beginning, there´ll be no end cause on my love you can depend."
  • *** "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher.  (Classic Rock/Pop)  I put this to accompany pictures of when my parents started dating and got married.  The lyrics are great for this.  Lyrics include: "I got you to hold my hand, I got you to understand, I got you to walk with me, I got you to talk with me, I got you to kiss goodnight, I got you to hold me tight, I got you, I won't let go, I got you to love me so."
  • "The Wind" by Cat Stevens(Acoustic Rock/Folk)  This song was great to accompany pictures of our growing family. 
  • *** "Let Your Love Flow" by The Bellamy Brothers(Classic Rock/Pop)  This song was a great pairing with pictures to a chapter I built titled "Friends Forever" which showed pictures of my mom with friends over the years.  Lyrics include: " Just let your love flow like a mountain stream, And let your love grow with the smallest of dreams, And let your love show and you'll know what I mean, It's the season."
  • "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel(Classic Rock/Pop)  This song was great to accompany a chapter of pictures of my mom with all her relatives over the years.  Really good lyrics -- my favorite part is "you can keep my things, they've come to take me home" which reminded me of when my folks would pick me up at the end of the college year.
  • "Ooh La La" by Rod Stewart. (Classic Rock)  Used this toward the end of my dad's video.  Has a great start to it, with instruments and line "poor old granddad..." that seemed fitting.  Refrain is "I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger"
  • "Windy" by The Association(Classic Rock / Pop)  I used this to accompany the chapter on her college days.
  • "Turn, Turn, Turn" by The Byrds. (Classic Rock)  Paired it with pictures of my Dad's college.  Was kind of a theme song of the 1960s.  The lyrics are basically a verse from the from the bible, book of Ecclesiastes.
  • "Takin Care of Business" by Bachman Turner Overdrive(Classic Rock)  Accompanies photos showing my Dad's career.
  • "Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon. (Classic Rock)  A song John Lennon wrote for his young son.  Includes the great  lyric "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans."  Could be good for a father/son theme in your movie.
  • "When I'm 64" by The Beatles(Classic Rock)  Would be good for a video for a husband or wife on an anniversary.  Lines like "will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?"
  • "In My Life" by The Beatles(Classic Rock)  A sentimental song by the Beatles.  Lyrics include: "There are places i'll remember, All my life though some have changed. Some forever not for better, Some have gone and some remain."
  • "A Pirate Looks at Forty" by Jimmy Buffet. A ballad that would be great for any guy on their 40th birthday, especially if they are a Buffet fan or a sailor.  Great lyrics include: "Mother, mother ocean, I have heard you call.  Wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall.  You've seen it all, you've seen it all."
  • "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd. Melancholy acoustic song featuring lyrics like "we're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl year after year."  There was a really touching cover of this at the telethon right after 9/11 by Fred Durst (of Limp Bizkit) and the Goo Goo Dolls.
  • "The One I Love" by David Gray.  Chorus of "you're the one I love" repeats quite a bit.
  • "Coming to America" by Neil Diamond.  A fantastic song if your video is going to include pictures of relatives / ancestors who immigrated to America.  


  • *** "I've Been Everywhere" by Johnny Cash. (Country)  Was great to accompany chapter on all the vacations and travel.  Recently featured in a commercial for some hotel chain.  Lyrics include: " I've been everywhere, man. Crossed the deserts bare, man. I've breathed the mountain air, man.
    Of travel I've had my share, man. I've been everywhere."
  • "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks. (Country)  A great song to use to show pictures of your buddies.  
  • "Remember When" by Alan Jackson. (Country)  I haven't used it in anything, but I have seen it used well in other examples.
  • "Don't Blink" by Kenny Chesney(Country)  Lyrics that talk about how life goes by so fast with so many memories.
  • *** "Forever and For Always" by Shania Twain (Country)  I used this to accompany pictures of my mom as a grandmother with her grandkids.  The words are great to pair with certain pictures. Lyrics include: " 'Cause I'm keeping you forever and for always, We will be together all of our day, Wanna wake up every morning to your sweet face--always."
  • "Act Naturally" by Buck Owens. (Classic Country)  Old country song that has opening words "They're gonna put me in the movies.  They're gonna make a big star out of me."
  • "Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glen Campbell(Country)  Used to show my Dad's early days going from family farm to bigger things.  Lyrics include: " And I dream of the things I'll do, With a subway token and a dollar tucked inside my shoe, There'll be a load of compromisin', On the road to my horizon,But I'm gonna be where the lights are shinin' on me."
  • "Somebody Like You" by Keith Urban.  Includes lyrics like " Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand,
    But you’re teachin’ me to be a better man.  I don’t want to take this life for granted like I used to do, no, no.
    I wanna love somebody, Love somebody like you."  Great use of a banjo in this song too.
  • "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.  (Country)  Great to accompany a chapter about a couple's life together. 
  • "King of the Road" by Roger Miller.  (Country)  Catchy old tune that has lyrics like "I'm a man of means, by no means" ... "
  • "Traveling Man" by Ricky Nelson. (Country?)  Catchy old tune about a guy who traveled the world and fell in love with lots of women.
  • "Long Time Gone" by the Dixie Chicks. Song about life growing up in the country.  Features a banjo.
  • "Silent House" by the Dixie Chicks.  Song Natalie Maines wrote to remember her grandmother who died of Alzheimer's Disease.  Lyrics include: "And I will try to connect All the pieces you left. I will carry it on And let you forget. And I'll remember the years, When your mind was clear. How the laughter and life Filled up this silent house."
  • "Never Wanted Nothing More" by Kenny Chesney.  Great lyrics include "Well, I'm what I am and I'm what I'm not, And I'm sure happy with what I've got, I live to love and laugh alot. And that's all I need. I never wanted nothing more. And I never wanted nothing more."
  • "I Go Back" by Kenny Chesney.  Talks about how a song makes him remember old times.

Oldies / Crooners

  • "My Way" by Frank Sinatra.  A classic with great lyrics of a man recalling his life.  Elvis loved to cover this song. Great lyrics include: "Ive lived a life thats full. I've traveled each and evry highway; And more, much more than this, I did it my way."
  • "Mr. Bojangles" by Sammy Davis, Jr.


  • "Theme from Love Story" by Henry Mancini(Orchestral) I used this as the first song to go along with the opening photos of her hometown before the title appeared.

Do you have suggestions for other songs that would be great on a soundtrack for a "This is Your Life" movie for a parent, grandparent or other loved one?  Post your suggestions in a comment below.



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