Kim in Baltimore, putting away the last of the Christmas decorations.
This morning on a television program they had a segment about 45 records. Does anyone remember those? I do and still have most of mine in a record box tucked on the shelf of my office closet. I come from a musical family. My grandparents and their siblings all played musical instruments and my grandfather and uncles even had their own music hour on the radio in the 1940’s.
Even though my parents were definitely children of the sixties, I was more encased in the generation of my grandparents. By the time I was five I could sing every verse of Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey. I knew much more about Judy Garland and Bing Crosby than Judy Collins and Bob Dylan. We watched Lawrence Welk every Saturday afternoon and listened to Nat King Cole on the radio. My grandfather and uncles would sit in our kitchen playing their banjos and guitars nearly every Saturday night. Dad never played an instrument, but loved listening to his big band records on the stereo. Music was playing day and night in our house.
My grandfather died the year I turned twelve and the weekly gatherings came to an end. We still had the radio and stereo playing constantly, but the music seemed empty. I felt hurt and alone. Listening to Fleetwood Mac and Billy Joel, though I loved their music, did nothing to improve my mood.
Dad came in one night after work and called my to the kitchen. “I have something for you,” he said and handed me a paper shopping bag. Inside was a Led Zepplin album. Now, you’ve probably figured out by now if you regularly read my post, I was an extremely sheltered child. I had heard of Led Zepplin, but doubt I could’ve named one of their songs. In my young mind this was the type of music some of the older neighborhood boys listened to in their basement while getting high.
I stood there, frozen in place, wondering what in the world my dad was thinking giving this to me. “Live a little,” he finally said, breaking the silence. I dutifully took the album up to my room and played it on my turn table. I laid across my bed with my head hanging off the side. It seemed to me the proper way to listen to Led Zepplin was with all the blood rushing to your brain. From the moment Robert Plant’s voice sang out “Hey, hey mama” I could feel the void in me that had been starved for months filling up. He was smooth and sometimes screaming and had an achy scratchiness to his voice I’d not heard before but could identify the same feelings within myself.
Dad never requested I turn my stereo down, nor did he ever roll his eyes when I mentioned Robert Plant the way he had anytime I’d wanted to talk about David Cassidy. The following summer we made our annual trek to Atlantic City. It would be our last visit there as a family. One night, while walking the boardwalk, Dad played a baseball game and won. Of all the prizes he could have chosen, he walked away with yet another Led Zepplin album, Bonzo’s Birthday. I was thrilled.
In Dad’s quiet way he helped me overcome the depression I felt after my grandfather’s death by introducing me to this music. One Zepplin album put me on the path to The Runaways, The Godfathers, Blondie, u2 and Nirvana. I have turned to them on numerous occasions over the years to dance, sing or even scream my way through both hard and happy times. My dad and Led Zepplin forever mingled in my heart.
Readers: Do you have a song or an album that helped you through a rough time?
What a lovely set of memories, Kim. And a side to your father I don’t think we’ve seen before.
He was a man of mystery to me…and still is to this day.
The mark of a great parent–understanding what your child needs and when they need it. Your dad did good, Kim.
Music: I love the Cure and Robert Smith is my One True Love, but this morning I was listening to The Platters and “The Great Pretender.” No clue why!
My mom loves The Platters and we would listen to their records waiting for my dad to come home from work. Hearing their songs conjures up images of summer nights with the windows open, my mom smoking cigarettes and the smell of the iron heating up. Good times!
Oh, yes, I remember 45s . . . and that you could set your record player to keep playing one over and over. As a teenager in 1964, I literally wore out the grooves on The Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
Most of my 45’s belonged to my dad. My favorite is Shake, Rattle and Roll. I think I may need to purchase a turn table!
This sweet story of your father understanding you so well brought a tear to my eye. There are so many songs that take me back to my high school or college days. Annie Lennox makes me think of the year my daughter was born because I listened to an album of hers over and over on nights I was up with my daughter. And a couple of country songs make me think of my husband “Remember When” by Alan Jackson and “Bless The Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts.
It’s funny, because, like most kids, I felt my dad was the last person on Earth to understand me. I suppose though, when it came to music, he did. I believe we were a lot alike. We don’t get angry often or easily, and have a hard time expressing it when we do. The music was a release. When I’m really upset I get in my car and scream it out with Dave Grohl. Dad just understood that about music. Once, he threw two tickets at me and said, “You know this guy? I gotta work it tonight and you might as well go.” They were tickets to Bruce Springsteen! Dad worked backstage (protecting Bruce??) and my friend and I got to sit in the front row, but didn’t get to meet Bruce. How Dad ended up involved in this stuff, I’ll never know!
Wow! That’s another amazing story. I remember playing Creedence Clearwater Revival and my dad actually liking them. Most of my music not so much.
It’s always nice to share music especially with your family. Most of the music I like my kids like as well. At least they don’t make fun of me! As for my dad, every once in awhile he would get an assignment like that. Once we were watching the news and they had a piece about Tom Selleck filming a movie in Baltimore. I was all excited. My dad said, “You like that guy? Christ, I just spent seven hours with him on the Hanover Street Bridge.” And that was it, no details, nothing. You never knew who he was spending his day with; could be criminal, celebrities or both!
There really are soundtracks to our lives.
At our cottage in Marlborough, MA we didn’t have TV. It was well within cable range, we just wanted an annual cleanse from the electronic entertainment. MY kids still vividly remember the music we played there in the evening–Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty. They call it, “The Cottage Music” and Kate recently suggested one of those songs be the one she dances with her dad to at her wedding.
Oh my gosh, Barb, that is so sweet! I love that, Cottage Music! You will have to let us know which song is chosen. When my children were growing up, I played a lot of James Taylor for them. Monica was about six years old and we were driving down to pick up tickets to one of his shows. As we were sitting at the red light, James Taylor crossed the street with his coat slung over his shoulder. Monica started crying and screaming in the backseat, “There’s James Taylor!” He turned and waved and I was crying by this time. He was either scared or impressed that a tiny child was screaming after him! She still talks about it.
What a touching story. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for reading!
Kim: I simply love your stories and hearing more about your Dad. We lost track in the later years and it’s good to know some of the touching, and some of the funny, stories you write….reminds me of when I was growing up around our family. Uncle Lou, Daddy….all of them playing and singing on Saturday nights. Life was good!
Linda, I can’t tell you how much it means to me to know that you are reading and enjoying my stories. Thank you so much. It is fun to remember and write about him. It’s also nice to know that someone else who knew him and loved him can remember with me.
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