Carry On Your Wayward Son…

OKay, so music is important to me–always has been, always will. I remember when my (biological) mom sang “You are my sunshine” to me when I was little and I cried–it’s a sad song. I remember the first time I heard “Puff the Magic Dragon” (also tears) and I remember the six-hundred times I listened to it to learn the words. I remember when I met my step-mom, how jealous I was that she and my step-brother had their own songs and I didn’t know them–but I learned.

So music has been important to me–my dad was (is!) a die-hard rock-and-roll fanatic—redneck rock, Blue Oyster Cult, Kansas, Van Halen, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppellin. Unfortunately for me, when some of these bands were getting big, I was getting to the middle-school age of rebelling against my parents’ music, and I spent some of the 20th centuries greatest musical moments listening to K-HILL– Oldies but Goldies, Leader of the Pack, Teen Angel, Tell Laura I Love Her, and the man in black himself, Johnny-Cash-I-Walk-The-Line.

I came to my senses in college–Mate helped, because Tesla was big and they were from Sacramento, and it was easy to just hop on that bandwagon, but Mate was also into Def Leppard and Van Halen and Night Ranger and, if you could forgive my Til Tuesday/Tori Amos fetish, I was right on board. It didn’t hurt that one of the guys we worked with into the late a.m. in college had a two hour cassette tape with Dark Side of the Moon on one side and Houses of the Holy on the other–yes, I am an English teacher who can scream “We don’t need no education” at the top of my lungs when it is called for.

I still love music–my iPod has everything in it from musicals (Seussicals ROCKS) to old rock and roll/new wave/ 80’s to Death Cab For Cutie, Dashboard Confessional, Bowling for Soup and Blue October (and ALWAYS, ALWAYS Bruce Springsteen–could you doubt it?)–although my tastes are almost overwhelmingly white (I am, after all, a born-in-a-trailer, dyed-on-the-farm redneck) I can be pleased that for a white girl, I have fairly eclectic taste. If nothing else, I have rock & roll that was originially played in the last half of this decade–again, not bad for an old white woman.

But I was still prepared for my children to rebel. I expected the worst–gangsta rap, speed metal (although I pre-empted that with my own Linkin Park worship) and, horror of horrors, boy-bands. I wasn’t going to belabor the fact, I wasn’t going to pick on my kids for their music–I figured that they would take the influences the could find, and eventually their true roots would establish themselves.

I must say, that despite the occassional Hilary Duff and Eminem (edited) cd, my experiment in parenting and music has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

A couple of weeks ago, I overheard my kids talking about what they’d gotten from my i-pod list and what their favorites were. My first clue that we had done our job was this conversation–
“Do you like the Rolling STones?” asked T.
“Oh yeah–I love Paint It Black!” Replied Chicken. “You should listen to Shelter–that’s a good one.”

I was so proud I almost cried.

And I have a couple of outside influences to thank for this beautiful conversation–the first of which is “Guitar Hero II”–my kids are suddenly listening to Nirvanna and Guns & Roses and liking it–and liking that we, the grown-ups are getting excited about a video game–best game EVER. And my second influence is, of all things, mom’s favorite guilty pleasure, her favorite under-thirty-object-of-her-old-woman’s desire… Jensen Ackles. Or more specifically, his television show–Supernatural.

And the season finale featured Kansas–Carry on Oh Wayward Son. And suddenly, after crying over the season finale (awesome!!!) my daughter and I HAD to have Kansas. We absolutely had to–it was not negotiable.

I begged Mate, I nagged him, I figured out how to shop i-tunes myself and I wept when it seemed to have a glitch. And now, after much computer wierdness, we have it. And I can’t explain why it’s so important to me.

Except, do you remember your first song? The first time you heard that melody and that lyric that made you want to weep with it’s perfection, that struck your heart like a tuning fork and sang that pitch into your soul until you were absolutely sure that song defined you and you alone of anyone on the planet, and the thrill of discovering other people whose hearts vibrated to that same pitch was like realizing that magic is real? Do you remember when music made magic real?

It still does for us. Music makes my kids feel what I felt twenty-five years ago–what is that if it isn’t magic. Music makes my kids feel what I felt and what my father felt twenty-five years ago, and in twenty-five years, maybe some weirdo punk band called ‘Doggie Farts’ will be doing a revival of Kansas as an oldie-but-goldie thing, and my grandchildren will suddenly find their hearts vibrating like magic and that thrill is worth it.

Every year I ask my students to write a paper on the role of the artist in society, and to explain why we revere the musician, the storyteller, and the poet.

I hope I got an A.

0 thoughts on “Carry On Your Wayward Son…”

  1. REM Losing My Religion.

  2. Amy Lane says:

    oooh…although I was more about “Driver 8” and “Talk about the passion”…

  3. Bells says:

    Talk about the Passion! Yeah! But I only got early REM retrospectively. they didn’t hit Australia in a big way until LMR. Then my sister and i went backwards and found the early stuff.

    This post really touched me, Amy. Music is so personal. You caught some of the reasons, ok, a lot of the reasons why.

  4. NeedleTart says:

    Snob alert: Rachmaninoff, Variations on a Theme by Paganini. When the violins come in about halfway through? I swear I can hear the angels drop by for tea.
    As a former music teacher I would give you an A- (no mention of the classics and my classes spent a *lot* of time on the classics from the Gudionian hand to Take Five).

  5. roxie says:

    Love the “tuning fork of the soul.” You do have a way with words, Sweetie! I’m more of a Jimmy Buffet and Irish Rovers sort of person. Thoroughly folked up you might say.

  6. Susan says:

    Mom Moments Of Shame: Jujube standing on our deck singing at the top of her lungs
    (to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star):

    “Stinky Stinky Diaper Change
    Boy My Brother Smells So Strange…”

    from Take Me Out Of The Bathtub by Alan Katz

    Brit Pop does it for me. Radiohead, Coldplay, Stereophonics, Doves.

    Best gig I ever saw: Doves at the Paradise on Comm Ave in Boston. Opening for them was a group of 4 scrawny, scruffy-looking New Yorkers who started playing some good old fashioned American rock n roll. I remember saying to DH, “Hey, these guys are pretty good. I really like them.” They finished their set, packed up their own instruments, stepped off the front of the stage and passed right through the crowd saying, “Hey thanks, you guys. Enjoy the Doves.”

    A few months later, The Strokes were playing Wembley Stadium in London. Kick @$$.

  7. Julie says:

    I LOVE you. Not your taste in music, mind you, but who cares about the names as long as there’s such passion there?

    Hope I can coney this to my kids as well as you have!

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