This all started when our daughter was born 18 years ago. From the very beginning I sang to her and she would sing back to me. Sharing music together has been one of the best parts of being a father and it inspired the song "Collide the Generations" which is also partly about the feeling I think all parents have about their kids passing them by at the speed of light. That got me thinking about how over the years just about everyone I know gets excited when they talk about sharing their favorite music with their kids and that younger musicians talking about older musicians influencing them is pretty interesting too. So here's a place for all of that stuff. — Garland
Stories about how music gets passed down the line, whether parents talking about sharing music with their kids or young musicians talking about the older performers who inspired them.
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When I was a kid, my dad used to play the guitar. He had a reasonably decent six-string acoustic – the same guitar my brother Tom would later cut his teeth on – and he’d play old-timey folk songs like “There’s a Hole in the Bucket” and “Worried Man Blues”. That’s him on his 45th birthday, standing in the kitchen of our ancient house on Oak Park Avenue. I was 4 years old at the time.
Years later, sitting in a college dorm room in Urbana, Illinois, I would listen to the Clash’s debut album over and over again, and in it I heard the strains of the folk songs my father used to play on that old guitar. It’s not an accident. John Graham Mellor, better known as Clash frontman Joe Strummer, first called himself “Woody Mellor” – a tribute to the great Woody Guthrie, whose music influenced him as much if not more than rock bands like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. The roots of punk rock were sewn in American folk music.
So, when I fired up the computer on this intensely bright, intensely cold Chicago morning and I learned that Pete Seeger passed away Monday at the age of 94 – just two years older than my father would have been had he not died nearly 20 years ago – it struck me how Seeger’s music formed a chain that linked the generations of my family, from my dad playing his six-string guitar in the kitchen, to my older siblings protesting the war in Vietnam, to me, sitting in a college dorm room, listening to the record that changed everything.
There are those records that you can turn people on to. And know that it will give them pleasure. When I first heard the JJ Cale album Naturally, it sounded like a long lost friend and at the same time he sounded like he was from another galaxy or at least another planet. As well he should, he’s from Oklahoma you know. At a gig recently, the bartender let the needle rest for the whole of side one. And after a long unrewarding night of humping equipment and kicking around songs, the sound of that record immediately lifted my spirits and changed the mood of the room.
At another gig in Louisiana a few years back I vividly remember hearing it spilling out into the St Francisville cabin park, after three days of rain, the air was hanging thick -- the crickets were cricking and the major 7th chords of Magnolia mixed in with the sticky atmosphere. It sounded beautiful and smelled heavenly. Made me wish I could freeze the moment. 190 miles from the Angola prison.
JJ Cale’s Naturally was one record that we could agree on in the Green On Red van. I used to listen to this record in the dark with Stephie. Music brought me together with Stephie. When we started singing together – and I heard our voices together. I thought we might get married someday. And it happened. Maybe I’ll put it on later tonight. That’s the best music. The kind that brings people together.
My daughter Natalie was about 11 when the Spice Girls hit with "Wannabe," and naturally, with other kids her age falling prey to their dulcet tones - or perhaps more importantly - their awesome stage names, she was not immune to the charms of this fluffy piece of pop.
Then she heard the Beatles. Or rather, saw them on TV. The combination of old Beatles footage and those timeless songs had her in thrall, and even when she found out that one member was dead and the rest were older than her parents and that they had not even been the Beatles since 1970, it didn't dent her enjoyment one bit.
I tried but failed to turn her on to the Stones, though. She found Jagger absurd and just laughed at the very idea. How about some Beefheart? I thought. Well, as any young man in 1971 found out to his chagrin, if you asked a girl "So...do you wanna come back to my place and listen to some Beefheart?" you would find yourself going home alone that night.
The Captain didn't impress any better in the 90's either, and my daughter - after suffering half a side of "Safe As Milk" - cracked up laughing and told me that in her mind she pictured Beefheart and his musicians as a bunch of really old men, dressed in overalls and straw hats, and performing on a porch like something out of a black and white western.