With apologies to my buddy, Steve, who couldn’t name a musician if the prize was a brand-new Scotty Cameron putter, I’m taking a break from rebuking Biden to discuss perhaps my favorite subject, music.
I love music, particularly classic rock, blues, and piano. Love really isn’t a strong enough word; what would life be without it? I inherited this attribute from my mother. She’d put a stack of albums on every morning and play them all day when I was a kid. I recall Johnny Cash, Perry Como, Beach Boys, Nancy Sinatra, or Ray Charles played non-stop. Because of her repetitious habits, I also developed a strong aversion to crooner music, such as Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett. Now in her 80s, mom still listens to music all day long.
Later, my tastes turned to pop music on WLS 890 in the late ‘60s at my neighbor’s house. The Monkees and Beatles were all the rage. By the early ‘70s, Randy, my neighbor bought a turn-table, receiver, and speakers. We discovered Black Sabbath, Foghat and Deep Purple. What teenage boy isn’t enthralled with the opening guitar riff to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water?” My son once interrupted me while I was in an important meeting with Ford in Detroit to call me with his version. I will forever recall, “Hey dad, listen to this …”
When Randy bought his first Chevy, he and I installed a floor-mounted eight-track player. With nothing better to do in Chebanse, we’d ride around listening to Led Zepplin, and Wishbone Ash for hours. I can’t tell you how many times we listened to the 18-minute version of Iron Butterfly’s “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida” with its iconic drum solo.
About that time dad entered me into a drawing. I won a hundred bucks! The first thought in my head was to buy a record player. There wasn’t enough money for a kick-butt receiver, but I was ecstatic anyway. Enough was left to buy a couple albums — probably the hardest decision of my young life.
At the time, some double albums went for the same price of one record so I purchased the Grandfunk Railroad “Live” double-album. For my other selection, Steppenwolf’s “Greatest Hits,” gave me my own “Magic Carpet Ride.” Dad was crestfallen all the money was spent on music instead of savings. Later I darn near wore out the Grassroots “Greatest Hits” and Arlo Guthrie’s “Runnin’ Down the Road” albums on that record player. Bet there’s hardly anyone reading this that knows Guthrie, until you remind them about the “City of New Orleans” where “the train pulls out of Kankakee.”
Mom belonged to various record clubs. They would send albums if you didn’t send the card back in time, so she had albums she never heard. I’d dig around in the stack to abscond with a few nuggets that became treasures. Records by Mott the Hoople and Jethro Tull, or the “Rock Opera Tommy” by the Who were diverse from what I had previously heard, yet they attracted me like a bug to light.
Today, 50 years later, I still listen to those artists regularly via Spotify, the greatest thing since sliced bread. After all this time, I have even a better appreciation of some bands, such as Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones — their talent is extraordinary.
I probably can’t express this appropriately, but in my youth, music was just a catchy song. Today, it’s the musicianship itself, and I can recognize songs by the guitarists style in songs from that era. Can anyone not recognize George Harrison’s Rickenbacker guitar in “While My Guitar Gently Sleeps?”
I don’t just listen to music; I feel it. Buddies Kevin P. and Scott S. will say the same thing. Surely many of you feel this way, regardless of genre. My mother can still listen to Sinatra all night long — good grief!
I can listen to the piano classics of Richard Clayderman all day. Songs like Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away” and Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” elicit a sensation inside me that is hypnotic — there’s a special place my brain goes when listening to those songs. The Eagles’ song “Peaceful, Easy Feeling” can actually make me feel peaceful. My wife married me 41 years ago to the aptly titled Led Zepplin song “Thank You.” I thought so much of the Allman Brother’s song “Whipping Post,” I named my published novel, the crowning achievement of my writing experience, by that name.
Humans seem to be hard-wired to music. According to Elena Mannes in her book “The Power of Music,” studies confirm that music may someday be able to help patients heal from maladies like Parkinson’s or strokes. They are finding music brings memory back to Alzheimer’s victims. I know certain songs bring me back to periods in my past. Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” triggers warm memories of running around Chebanse in the mid-’70s and a very amusing “Risky Business” moment with my dad. Chicago’s, “If You Leave Me Now,” reminds me of an old flame. Bread’s “Everything I Own,” makes me think of my long-departed sister.
When photos began to appear of COVID patients on ventilators, I made my wife promise if something similar happened to me, put headphones on me and keep music piped into my noggin’ all day. I fervently believe it will help me in recovery.
I know it won’t hurt.