My daughter mentioned in her blog that she is going to see a Rob Thomas concert. “Who in the world is Rob Thomas?” I asked. “He used to be the lead singer for Matchbox Twenty before he went solo,” she replied. Oh, yeah. Right. Now if I knew who or what “Matchbox Twenty” was I wouldn’t feel absolutely clueless!
It’s a reality of life that music has long been the dividing factor between youth and old age, between “in” and “out”, “stylish” and “old-fashioned” . Forget about wrinkles or gray hair or comfortable shoes giving away your age. If half the people mentioned at the Grammy’s tonight are “strangers” to you, you’re old! Nothing else seems to keep pace with the rapid changes in our culture like music does. And judging from the first five minutes of the show, most of the changes aren’t good. I couldn’t even sit and watch it! What a disgusting demonstration of how “tolerant” our society has become. There was a time when that kind of trash wouldn’t have even been on television.
But, I digress. I didn’t intend to write about some of the technological wizardry that passes for music these days. We still have some great singers and they deserve recognition! I started out thinking about how music has impacted my own life. I love music!
One of my earliest memories is of my mother sitting on the edge of my bed singing some quiet little song about a “blue-eyed cowboy”. Later, after the arrival of my brother, she sang “two little babes, a boy and a girl, got lost in the woods one day…”. A depressing song that I still can’t quite forget. It’s sad, but I can’t remember my mom doing much singing after that. She probably just got too busy chasing the two of us!
My dad and I used to sit in the car and listen to music on the radio. ‘Course I think we only listened while we were waiting for “Gunsmoke” to start, but at least I enjoyed a little more music. And Dad loved to listen to Brenda Lee!
When I was nine or ten, my grandparents owned a bar and grill. My dad worked for them sometimes in the evening and I went with him. I’d beg to sit at the end of the bar near the jukebox. Most of the time the customers were local people and they gave me nickels so I could play “North to Alaska” and “The Battle of New Orleans”. It was during that time that my parents bought me a small record player for Christmas and the jukebox man gave Dad a stack of old records for me.
Remember Mitch Miller? I owe that man a debt of gratitude for all those late nights I spent sitting up learning song lyrics. Who can ever forget that smile? He made music fun.
When I moved to Caddo as a teenager, one of the local girls cornered me right away and wanted to know if I was a Beatles fan. I had to confess that I wasn’t really. I didn’t have the time or energy to be a “fan” of anyone. Between school work and farm work there wasn’t time for a lot of music. I had seen them on the Ed Sullivan show, but they were just another group to me.
Church music always fascinated me because my mother raised me in the Church of Christ (no instruments), but allowed my grandmother to occasionally take me to the Baptist Church (piano and an organ). My mother sang in church, but my grandmother never did. She always said she couldn’t “carry a tune in a bucket”. The contrast was good for me. I learned to sing a cappella and read music in my home church. I learned to appreciate the skilled musicians in my grandmother’s church.
I sang a lot during my high school years. I was in the chorus and a couple of groups and I sang a few solos. I tried piano lessons, but I wasn’t very good, or very dedicated. I tried guitar lessons, but I wasn’t able to get past the sore fingers. So I just kept singing. I remember a group of us performing “These Boots Were Made for Walking” for the annual hootenanny. I’m so glad no one had a video camera!
It’s funny how a topic like music can trigger specific memories from the past. When I started thinking about this I remembered exactly where I was and what I was doing the moment I heard Roberta Flack sing “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. I was working at a small advertising agency in California. One of the artists said, “Hey listen to this!” and six of us gathered around her drafting table. The music was haunting and mesmerizing. I’d never heard anyone sing like that before.
Music speaks to our soul. I remember driving to town the day after Mom died. Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” was playing on the radio. I turned it off and started crying. It was over a year before I could stand to hear that song. It just triggered something so painful that I couldn’t bear to let it inside my heart. Now when it plays on the radio I sing along.
My husband introduced me to jazz. I had grown up with country music, heard rock on the radio, discovered folk music at work, and been exposed to classical music in school. Somehow, I’d never heard much jazz except for Louie Armstrong. Marrying a jazz fanatic changed that! But Gary has also become a George Strait fan, so we’ve affected each other. Now we enjoy all kinds of music. I’ve learned to appreciate most of it. I hate the fact that so many of the new musicians use pornographic videos to promote their work, but I don’t watch them. Country music has always been about booze and sex and grief. I suppose we sing about the things that hurt the most. How can you argue with lyrics like “Jesus loves you, I don’t”, or “Tequila makes her clothes fall off”? Music is about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Just like life.
I suppose I’ll go back and watch the show for a minute. I think I hear someone actually singing!