Friday, January 20, 2017

Do You Believe in Rock and Roll?

I was raised on a mix of music that mostly included country in my early years. My father was a big Elvis Presley fan, and Dad played in a band and sang. I heard him practicing a lot so there was always a repertoire of about 40 songs running through the air space of our house.

When I was around 10, I discovered I could change the dial on the radio and listen to whatever I wanted. Suddenly, the American Top 40 and Casey Kasem was the thing. I stopped listening to country music - I never much cared for it anyway - and turned to pop.

My coming of age music consisted of Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, The Captain and Tennille, Elton John, the Doobie Brothers, The Carpenters, Helen Reddy, Oliva Newton John, Carole King, Barry Manilow and then . . . disco. Suddenly I was listening to the Bee Gees, ABBA, Alicia Bridges, Andy Gibb, Anita Ward, Chic, Gloria Gaynor, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Donna Summer.

Hard rock never did much for me, but I married a farm boy who thinks The Rolling Stones are the end-all of the music world (and he may be right). He was also into AC/DC and ZZ Top, which I did not listen to until we began dating.

Neither of us are big Beatles fans, though of course I know some of their songs. How could you not? I suspect that is sacrilege in some circles, but I think age and the time you hit puberty probably has something to do with it.

When I was 12 I began playing the guitar, and at first I played the things my father played, since he occasionally instructed me. Mostly, though, I taught myself, and so I began buying song books with pop songs in them.

By the time I was 14, I was playing rhythm guitar in a band of my own. I never have been much of a lead guitarist, though I like the latest fingerstyles people are playing, where they pick out the entire song lyrics. Here's a link to an up-and-coming young lady, Gabriella Quevado, and her latest video. I don't know the song but it's pretty.

After I married, my musical talent declined. I was working, going to school, caring for a husband, and I was sick a lot. Also, I discovered that having no one to play music with was a detriment to my efforts. My husband plays the radio and that's about it, and he cannot sing, either. So I was left to my own devices. I made a few efforts to join a band or otherwise engage myself musically, but because I was involved in so many other things, nothing worked out.

My guitar did not sit silently for years on end, but it did sit silently for weeks, sometimes months, on end. One does not improve a talent without practice.

At various times, new artists have spurred me to learn new songs. Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow, in particular, were artists who had songs I wished to learn to play and sing.

Now I am older and have some time on my hands, and I have attempted to pick up the guitar again, to relearn the old things I knew and maybe some new songs, too. And you know what? The darned thing is heavy and I have a bad back. So playing the guitar hurts. I've had to adjust the way I hold it, add a foot stool, and not play for long periods of time.

But I still want to play music, so I bought a harmonica. I have no book or guide for that; I simply sit and pick out songs. Usually these are old tunes I learned as a child, like "Big Rock Candy Mountain" or "Shenandoah" or something. But it lets me make a little music.

A friend told me earlier this week that music is a part of me, that the song within comes bursting out whether I am singing it or not. Music personified? I wouldn't go that far, but I think music is a big part of my spirit and my spirituality. I may not sing hymns but I can make Don McLean's Vincent sound as spiritual as Amazing Grace, especially if I am having a sorrowful day.

Recently I missed a memorial service of a friend, but I heard it ended with a rousing rendition of Me and Bobby McGee. And I thought, what a wonderful song for a send off. I was sorry I missed that. I tend to lean toward the maudlin and expect the song at my funeral to be Into the West, sung by Annie Lennox, from The Lord of the Rings.

But wouldn't a little Bee Gees be more uplifting? Or even something from The Carpenters? Maybe I will have to rethink those plans.

Music is not a part of everyone's world, but it is a part of mine. I enjoy listening to new sounds, learning about new instruments, and hearing new songs. Just because I don't particularly like country music doesn't mean I don't belt out Hank Williams every now and then.

I think music goes back to humanity's earliest beginnings. It's primal in us. It's the beating of our heart, isn't it? Thu-thump. Thu-thump. The rhythm of our breathing, in and out. The tapping of fingers on a log.

The voice crying out in the wilderness.

Rock on.

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