Went to a Dr. John and the Night Trippers concert a couple of weeks ago, at my favorite music venue in LA, UCLA’s Royce Hall. If you have never heard of Dr. John, it wouldn’t surprise me. He is one of the artists whose music could be heard on FM alternative rock radio stations, oh, around 40 years ago. His most famous cross over song from Louisiana jazz to rock is the “Right Place, Wrong Time.” If you listen to it on Dr. John’s “Best of…” 2 disc set, it is mixed in with the New Orleans stuff he mostly plays which I just started listening to on my IPOD today. This is because my son, who has been promising for week, finally put the music on the damn Apple thing that has replaced, first my record player, then my stereo, than my cassettes followed by CDs. Man, music technology has advanced (although some folks would disagree with the “advanced” term) exponentially these last four decades.
For me, I just like the way music makes me feel and I grew up in a time when our culture was DEFINED by the music we played. At least that’s what I think. Most of my generation has hung on to old rockin’ roll, like you do to the railing of a ship encountering a rogue wave. Because let’s face it, these days there is not a whole lot we can count on. We are sailing in rough seas. So when I play “Layla,” I am able to remember lying on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland at age 13, my radio propped up in the sand lying on a towel next to my best friend Mary. Even younger than that, I recall sitting in the backseat of Mary’s mother’s car, listening to the radio hoping to hear a Beatle’s song as we drove down Twinbrook Parkway, one rainy and cold winter evening. So many of my memories are associated with music. From the kids I hung out with when I was a teenager (will never forget the Allman Brothers concert in DC that I went to with Joey) to the profession I choose as a graduating senior from high school. The plan then, was to be a music teacher. At least that’s what they printed after my name in the school newspaper.
Music was my first love. The first instrument I learned to play at age 5, and please don’t laugh when I tell you this, was an accordion, much to the delight of my maternal grandparents, who were both musicians; he a violinist, she a concert pianist. I never heard them play. After that, came the flute, followed by the guitar and my voice. I wanted to be Joni Mitchell. But as much as I loved music, it did not turn out to be a career. However, all my kids, thanks to my music lessons (mostly pop quizzes) delivered in car trips, could easily ace The Beatles category on Jeopardy. As a parent, I consider this one of my biggest accomplishments.
So now that my youngest is 20, the last of my kids left at home, I have returned to my roots. Off with the TV set and on with music. I had forgotten about how it makes me feel. And as I settle into life near 60, I listen to my songs again and hear things, bass lines, drum beats, guitar riffs, that I didn’t hear so very long ago. I now also listen to my music really loud, for two reasons: 1. I am hard of hearing and 2. I grew up in an apartment and my father made sure what I played in my room wouldn’t disturb the neighbors. This year, though, it’s “Merry Christmas to me.” Because next week we are going to a Stevie Wonder concert (Bucket List Alert) and the set list includes music from one of his best albums, “Songs in the Key of Life.” And the band at our wedding played “Isn’t She Lovely” for our first dance. See what I mean?
Last but not least, after over 30 years of driving in LA, I got myself a personalized license plate for my car which says, 3ABBYRD. It’s an address. In London. Look it up in Wikipedia.
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done