There is much that I do not understand in life. One such mystery is any human being who is indifferent to music. I don’t remember when I first realized that music mattered so much to me, but several minutes of my life stand out, as they relate to music. I’ll try to recall them chronologically.
My parents weren’t particularly appreciative of music, though I remember one of their record albums with a slender woman on the cover, Peggy someone. The first song I remember singing along to was, I can’t quite grab it, but it was at the beginning of rock n’roll, maybe Chuck Berry. I remember my first portable radio and taking it to the beach, loving every song I heard, knowing every word to every song, and singing constantly.
One of my favorite stations was WMEX with DJ Arnie Ginsberg. I won a sweatshirt and was so excited when my dad took me into Boston to pick it up!
In the sixth grade, I got the first significant disappointment of my life when Mrs. Sherman asked me not to sing, because I couldn’t carry a tune. During music class, she had me write the notes, with my mouth shut, while the rest of the class sang. So, the lesson that I learned was to sing softly in a crowd, so others wouldn’t be offended. And, to sing out loud when I was in the house by myself.
About ten years later when I was married and a new mother, being home with my baby was heaven for me, because I had music blasting all day long, while I sang along with no complaints from my son.
A strong memory was getting a new stereo when my son was 8-10 and sitting in front of it with the speakers to our right and left, enveloped by the sounds. What were we listening to?
We moved to Pennsylvania in the 70’s and I discovered the Philadelphia Folk festival. My husband was indifferent to music, but I had friends who loved it. To camp out for three nights and hear singers whose music I loved, plus discover new musicians who made me laugh and cry with their tunes, this was indeed heaven.
Along the way, I ended up with a folk singer as my lover, who wrote love songs to me. Sounds corny, I’m certain, but what a delicious time of my life!
That was decades ago. My 30-year husband loves folk music as much as I do, though he doesn’t write songs for me or for anyone else. For years, until Covid, we enjoyed live music at least once a week. That is one of my biggest sadnesses right now. Zoom music is better than nothing, but doesn’t quite do it.
One unexpected pleasure that happened a few years ago when I was still teaching was this. Although I taught Algebra, a history teacher friend, knowing my reputation as an activist, asked me to be a guest speaker in a couple of his classes and describe the 60’s and 70’s through music. I had a wonderful time researching and designing the classes with music of Bob Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and so many others. I loved it that many of the old songs were familiar to the high school students!
One of my favorite stories was about Bob Seeger, who had been invited to play behind the iron curtain and was given a list of songs that he was not allowed to sing. He followed the rules and did not sing those songs, the ones he was most known for. All he did was play the music. After a few beginning chords, the audience did the singing. Music is powerful and plays an important part in the world.
These days, one of my favorite pastimes is tap dancing. I never studied dance when I was young and started tap when I was 70. It’s through local senior centers and the music we dance to is from the 50’s and 60’s. Elvis’ Jail House Rock is one of our current regular tunes. So, is it the tapping or the music that keeps me there?
Music and My Life, Part 2 will be posted next week.
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