Today’s post comes courtesy of my dearly beloved Tyler AKA The Hubs, about a subject that is near and dear to his heart….music. Music is serious business to him (he even was a DJ back in his early days in Colorado!) and I consider him is my ultimate fount of music knowledge. I’m always amazed at how he knows all the words to any and every song that plays on the radio. Without thinking he can rattle off what year the song came out, who sang it and even who wrote the lyrics. He also has the uncanny ability to remember the exact time and place he first heard a song and its initial impression on him. So take it away Tyler…..
As much as I might have hoped I would have heard the words “turn that racket down!” from my parents as a black-clad surly teen, blasting my XTC and Cure records from my crappy JC Penney stereo in my bedroom, they never came. Nothing I listened to, no matter how good, bad, or annoying, ever made a blip with them. In fact, one long driving trip to California was soundtracked by alternating cassettes (woah, there’s a flashback!) of Devo’s “Duty Now for the Future (mine) and Willie Nelson’s “Willie and Family Live” (theirs).
What on earth made me think about this? Well, I recently read a story about Cornell University study that showed that young adults had positive feelings towards the music that their parents exposed them to when they were young. Reading that story gave me even more of an appreciation for the way my parents raised me. Because, I am not sure that exposing your kids to your own music all the time is such a good thing.
As much as I tried to uncover my parents’ taste in music as an adult, what they liked and didn’t like remains to me as elusive as ever. Sure, we had a stack of old scratchy LPs, but the only one I can really visualize is “Afro-Desia” by Martin Denny. Denny was a pioneer of so-called “bachelor pad music” and while I barely remember the music on the record, I sure recall the bright-red lipsticked blonde flanked by exotic masks on the jacket. As I grew older, I grew to love Denny’s music as well, probably even more than my mom and dad.
Music is a huge part of my life. Some of my earliest and most vivid memories are of going into Woolworth’s and looking at the cheap mimeographed Top 40 playlists the Denver Top 40 radio station I listened to endlessly. I can recall buying my first 45, “Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat and Tears, and bleeding it dry until every note and vocal tic was burned into my brain. My wife has even had to endure my rantings when it shows up on the local oldies station in the WRONG version — “Dammit-the flute isn’t right–that’s not the single version, it’s the ALBUM version!”
So where does that leave me as a dad? Well, I have way too many CDs, as my lovely wife would attest, and still have a handful of LPs, but they really aren’t lying around the house the way my parents’ records did, exposed to young hands to grub up with fingerprints and scratch up with cheap record players. I am in an endless process of putting them on a hard drive, because, frankly, they are a pain to stack, file and store. If I was 20, I’m sure I’d have nothing but downloads. So how will I ever expose my own kidlets to the music I love so much?
It’s something I’ve wrestled with for a while now. I even have a toy record player and a stack of 45s I am waiting to give my son, as soon as I am comfortable with giving him something that actually plugs into a wall. Sure I could be the “cool/obnoxious” dad who plays nothing but his tasteful Clash and Kinks records in the car, but 1) our car CD player stinks and 2) it’s a bit presumptuous. My parents really didn’t force their tastes on me, and I don’t really want to do it to my own kids.
So what do we listen to as we drive around?
Top 40. Lots of Top 40. And I have to admit, it doesn’t all suck.
It wasn’t always this way. We started almost exclusively with the oldies station (meaning 70s, 80s & 90s music), but even someone as tolerant as I try to be has their limits hearing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” every single freaking day.
It was cute and harmless at first. As a baby, my son used to react to Billy Preston’s “Nothing for Nothing” by twirling his hands in circles. To this day, both of the kidlets go nuts the minute the cowbell kicks in on War’s ode to ‘70s LA Chicano culture, “Low Rider.” My daughter even excitedly points at the radio and goes “LOW..RIDE…DAH!” like I imagine most kids her age are expected to react to “Dora the Explorer.”
But after a while, even I grew sick of the oldies. Don’t get me wrong-I love old music, but the current oldies playlists are so constricted it was driving us all crazy. Plus, any parent who exposes their kids to “Piano Man” every day probably needs to reported to someone.
Personally I think radio out here in the NYC area is terrible. Really terrible. So somehow we wound up listening to a lot of Top 40 so we wouldn’t hear the same six songs over and over. It was sobering to realize my kids hear a lot of current music, and I don’t have a lot of control over it. They hear it at school, out in public, and my son heard a ton of it at camp-something inevitable when he spends all day in the care of 18 year olds. Today’s hit music is way more suggestive and blatant than it ever was when I was their age -“Sugar, Sugar” is pretty tame compared to “I’m Sexy and I Know It!” I don’t think the actual content of most songs registers with them but we have had to explain you can’t go around singing those kinds of things at school or family gatherings.
So what is the end result? Well, to the chagrin of myself and a lot of my friends, I have defended the music of such giants as Ke$ha and will.I. am (although no Justin Beiber- as a kid I had to tolerate Shaun Cassidy but, come on, some things are inexcusable). Plus I always had a soft spot for catchy, even silly pop music songs as long as they are well-produced. I’m no music snob. Sure, a lot of it is garbage, but so was a lot of stuff I listen to as a kid and even-gasp!-an adult. I can enjoy a lot of it and actually not hate myself in the morning-I have made my peace with it.
The other day, the song “Home” by Phillip Phillips came on the car radio. It’s kind of a corny song, done by an “American Idol” winner. My son asked us to turn it up. “Why?” the wife and I asked. “Because it reminds me of kindergarten.” I have to admit, it choked me up a bit. My son is forming his own tastes, his own memories, his own associations with his past, even at six years of age. And even though I’m his dad and I have a library of every kind of music, who I am to tell him what to like, or what to listen to?
Thanks again Tyler for a great post! Can you please help me out and show him a little bit of love by commenting – why not tell us what is the one song from your childhood that you’d share with your kids. If you want to read more of The Hubs musings, you can follow him on Twitter @DadAndMarried.
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