Daniel Browne

Daniel Browne is a Brooklyn resident who has written about music for SalonThe Oxford American and Mojo Magazine, among others.

In the days following the death of Lou Reed, I found myself contemplating which entry in his bewildering catalog means the most to me. It would be easy to pick 1989’s New York, my official answer to the favorite-album-of-all-time question. When I really think about it, though, I have the deepest personal connection to Set the Twilight Reeling from 1996.

It had been four years since his last release, and in the meantime he’d found love with Laurie Anderson. It shows in the songs, which are warm, self-reflective, funny, nostalgic even.  This is the album that begins with a billow of buzzing guitar and the words, “When I was a young man, no bigger than this, a chocolate egg cream was not to be missed.”

Though I didn’t fully understand it at the time, the gentler, more domesticated Reed of StTR was just my speed. The sad fact is, even at age eighteen, I was about as domesticated as it gets. My parents were globetrotting hippies when they were young, and even after they settled down, they remained outsized personalities, rule-breakers, irreverent, emotional. For me, teenage rebellion took the form of excessive caution, an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, a tendency to internalize—basically, I was uptight. (Still am, to some degree.)

My mom was the OG Lou Reed fan in the family (she actually saw The Velvet Underground back in the Exploding Plastic Inevitable days), and at first I was resistant. On initial exposure to the violence and profanity of New York, eleven-year-old me considered it crass, ugly (Paul Simon would never say that!). See: uptight, right? Eventually, I was seduced by an early Best of… compilation with less threatening sorta-hits like “Satellite of Love,” “Coney Island Baby,” “Sally Can’t Dance” and kept going from there. Nonetheless, while I was fascinated by what I was hearing—the language, that voice—none of it had anything much to do with me. I had never taken a walk on the wild side. “How Do You Think It Feels?” poses a string of provocative questions (“How do you think it feels when you’ve been up for five days? …How do you think it feels to feel like a wolf and foxy?”) to which the only answer I could give was, “Haven’t a clue.”  “Heroin”? Not even Zima for me. “Kiss the boots of shiny, shiny leather”? You’ve got to be kidding.

StTR was a different story. “What’cha gonna do with your emotions/Ones you barely recognize?” Reed asks in “Riptide”—now that’s a relevant question for a teenager with a neurotic habit of self-regulation. And while “Riptide” is a portrait of extreme mental anguish, far beyond my own frame of reference, another song dealing with the same question, “Hang On To Your Emotions,” hit closer to home.

When a demagogue inside your head has taken charge
And by default what you say or do is criticized
And this litany of failures is recited a thousand times
You'd better

Hang on to your emotion, hang on to your emotion.

There’s another track on StTR I want to mention, an unreserved love letter to Anderson. Listening to Reed rapturously sing her praises, you can tell he sees her as the living embodiment of the quality he most admires and aspires to. It’s called “The Adventurer.”

Unlike my parents, an adventurer is something I’ll probably never be. I’m still hanging on to my emotions most of the time. But in honor of my mom and dad—and Reed—someday soon I’m going to wait for twilight and give letting go a try. Consider yourself warned. 

John Porter

John Porter runs Mood Indigo Entertainment, an artist management company that specializes in artist, career and legacy development.

With both of his parents in the music business, my son Brendan had no chance of not being exposed to music. His Mom noticed while he was still in her belly that he seemed to respond to Cannonball Adderley when they heard his music on WVGO (the great jazz station based in New Jersey that thankfully reaches into NYC). We didn’t own any of his music in our own collection at the time, but we quickly bought him his first CD. And yes, he kicked when it was played. Upon birth, during those late nights of comforting when he wouldn’t sleep or wanted attention I learned that pretty much any song by The Beatles could be sung as a lullaby. And as he grew older, many of their songs became sing alongs as he rode in the back seat being toted to and fro. I even purchased a paperback lyric book of their songs so we could try to not butcher the lyrics too badly (I have to note this particular book had many errors, which was frustrating).  

Early on when he was 2, we determined he was a “pop” kid. He heard and fell in love with an advance of Hanson’s “Mmmm Bop” and soon, so did a lot of the rest of the world. He proved a great little barometer: if Bren liked it it was pretty much destined to be a “hit”. He often earned his keep hearing his Mom’s company’s songs on TV and notifying her immediately. Very often it turned out the song hadn’t been licensed properly and the errant party was made to pay a full rate. He still performs this valuable service for her but as his viewing habits have changed he’s busting fewer people/companies. Nickelodeon and Disney in particular, have to be glad he’s no longer policing their licensing departments. 

I was less involved with “pop” stuff than his Mom. I played lots of singer-songwriters and Americana type music in my apartment (he lived with me most of the time after his Mom and I divorced, in the early years)  I have to admit to playing lots of Alison Krauss’ music and he always seemed to like it. At Newport one Summer he flirted shamelessly with her - not knowing who she was. When she sang, he made a beeline for the stage and was 3/4 up the steps when I grabbed him. He would have no doubt run right up to her to watch her sing. Later that day, I was startled by Lyle Lovett starring at us both, very close up (his nose inches from mine) - as we napped in the shade. Bren, wasn’t startled at all. His eyes opened briefly, then he went back to sleep.  

When he was in elementary school, he charmed me along with an entire subway car of jaded New Yorkers when he - having borrowed my iPod, suddenly started to sing along with John Lennon’s “Imagine” on our morning commute. The entire, very crowed and loud car suddenly grew silent, as everyone listened and watched my little boy singing with his eyes closed. When he stopped singing, he opened his eyes to the applause and smiles from our fellow travelers. Yes, he was embarrassed and buried himself in my underarm to hide. It was a miracle his head could fit there, my heart was so swollen with love for him - and that moment. As he grew older, he became a hip-hop kid. The Beatles have remained one of the few common musical denominators between us.  

While still in elementary school, but older, he wandered onto the Late Night w/Conan O’Brien set to be closer to his favorite band of the moment, Switchfoot. Their tour manager hand delivered him to me in the green room, with a smile - telling me he almost made it onto national TV. Those guys were always so sweet with him. A year later when I took him to go see U2, he very defensively stated that Adam Clayton was stealing Tim Foreman’s moves. He also fell asleep five or six songs in. So, I tried to introduce him to that kind of experience a bit too early. A tad costly, but all these years later he still loves U2’s music too.

He's attended the SXSW Music Festival and been “babysat” by a new band at the time that was hanging out at the swimming pool - nice chaps: Oasis. I kidnapped him at Jazz Fest one year because the rest of the group was lolly gagging. He and I ended up with a great view of Stevie Wonder. When we rejoined the rest of our group (and his grumpy Mom) at the end of the set, she exclaimed that “I can’t believe you stole the baby”.  My response, “I can’t believe you didn’t think that I would” (we had different priorities, she and I - our shared love of our kid is our common denominator). When he was born,Songs In The Key Of Life became dubbed Songs In The Key Of Brendan. I wasn’t not gonna get up close to Stevie with him ;)    

In middle school, he gravitated to a few songs I also loved like “Brighter Than Sunshine (by aqualung) & “Sad, Sad Song” (by M. Ward). But my allegiances to a artists, not so much shared by him. He liked certain songs. No longer wanted to be bothered by albums. So, around the house I changed my listening habits to cater better to his short attention span and the iPod playing on “shuffle” slowly became the norm. And, his listening habits veered more to his own music on his own iPod. Still, I hoped some of the good stuff would get exposed to him via osmosis. 

We both had fun with Gil Scott Heron’s ‘Whitey On The Moon” & Bruce Springsteen’s version of “War”. We’d sing along to “War” and to get the “ugh” part before “what is it good for” he’d hit me in the stomach. And he totally got that Gil Scott helped pioneer the rap that he loved. A girlfriend helped turn him on to The Beastie Boys and we lived in Brooklyn at the time, so it was fitting. The Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated” was introduced one Halloween as “I Wanna Be Pirated” and stuck. When he discovered “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang he was really surprised that I knew the words (I sold a bazillion of those 12”s when I worked at music retail - hell, I was in charge the 12” section). 

By the time he’d become a teenager, his tastes were definitely his own and were so skewed towards hip-hop that common denominators came along less and less with new music. He loved all the new dances associated with songs of the moment and at his Bar Mitzvah as he and all his friends lined up to dance along to Soulja Boy's “Crank That”. I couldn’t resist the temptation to line up and join in. By the time I had done all the moves from it I actually knew, he saw me and screamed, “Ba, no!”. My job done, my son shamed - I left the dance floor beaming.    

In high school, Otis Redding whose music his father has played around him for years suddenly became hip, courtesy of Jay-Z and Kanye sampling him on “Otis". Ray Charles became likewise via “Gold Digger” (Jamie Foxx provided cool vocals mimicking the legend). And some classic rock stuff like Bob Seger has become cool to him. Some stuff I thought he’d gravitate towards as he got older, like Prince - not so much (yet anyway, he has issues with the “production"). His favorite group in the last few years has been Imagine Dragons. He “discovered” them early compared to his friends, and has now gone to shows in mid-sized clubs, to seeing them graduate to Jones Beach (thank you, Mom). But unlike his Father, who once he discovers something he likes, goes in search of back catalog and their history - he is only about them in the present.  

He puts up with my Bob Marley, Willie Nelson and R.E.M. jags. But he loves “his” music more than he likes “mine". Which, is how it should be. The importance of music is enough. His excitement about sharing new songs he’s ‘discovered” is infectious. He’s made me reassess my opinions on several artists I hadn’t paid enough attention to. Others, I get why he digs ‘em - but they just aren’t for me. Musical taste is subjective. He’s his own person now.  But I think we’ll always have the common denominators - those songs between us.

CHUCK RAGAN

Chuck Ragan, hailing from Grass Valley, California, has been an active and influential singer-songwriter for the last decade and has sold over 100,000 albums worldwide to date. Ragan’s newest release, Till Midnight, presents the singer-songwriter’s belief in music’s ability to inspire and embodies a mix of his distinctively raspy voice, eloquent lyrical insight, and catchy, forceful songcraft.

I first heard Garland's song "Wild In The Streets" in 1986 when it was covered by The Circle Jerks.  I grew up skateboarding and after I strayed from the straight and narrow home my parents raised me in, I found a completely alternative lifestyle, community and styles of music.

I grew up in a old school Southern Baptist household.  My mother's side of the family came from Louisiana, so Cajun and French folk music was our release and where we felt at home.  Growing up in churches in the South, I was also surrounded by old time gospel, bluegrass and spirit driven hymnals.  When I started playing music, a friend of the family introduced me to the secular side of folk, country and acoustic music.  It was skateboarding that derailed it all and sent me in another direction and in the meantime, "Wild In The Streets" was our anthem.  It was our saving grace. 

After I'd heard this cover, I found the original and where and who it all came from.  The respect I have for musicians that have cut the path for us to follow is immense.  None of us would be here doing what we're doing if it wasn't for people that we looked up to somewhere along the way.  Years later I was lucky enough to find myself on The Revival Tour stage in 2009 with Garland Jeffreys strutting and wailing his heart out to a tune that had been a staple in my life since I was a kid.

Needless to say, it's amazing how things take place in our world of music when you believe in what you do and how one day you may be sitting on a floor listening to records and a couple decades later singing that harmony with the very person you were listening to.  I think that's why it's so important to continually support the younger generation and furiously fight for the underdogs because you never know if they may be the ones who'll tell me I'm singing my part a little out of key or helping my old broken self down from the stage!  In all seriousness though, it's vital for us to connect, contribute and promote the youth of today for I believe they are the crucial thread in the fabric of our music community.

Garland embraces this ethic and returns whatever it was that he learned along the way tenfold.  I'm completely honored to know him and have had the opportunities to share the stage and a tune with him.  Much respect, CR.

AJ CROCE

The son of legendary singer-songwriter Jim Croce, A.J. Croce’s 20+- year career began with his first tour at age 18 opening up for B.B. King. Now, with Twelve Tales, A.J. unveils his most ambitious recording project to date, CD out on 2/4 and LP on 5/6 via Compass Records.

The idea of sharing or receiving music from or with another generation is one of the most natural and uncomplicated of all human exchanges. In my experience there are many roads to discovering and sharing music. For me it began before I entered this world, with the music that my mother was listening to. In my case there was a good deal of music in the house, both created by my parents, their friends as well as from the records that were played in the house.

After entering this world I think we begin to associate music with the experiences that we have. A broad musical palette takes a true curiosity of the unknown. I could be wrong but it seems like there’s a window of opportunity through our twenties for us to push our musical interests in every direction. I’ve never met an adult who challenges their musical tastes if they weren’t doing so when they were young.

My first departures into the unknown came via my transistor radio and my dad’s record collection. I did something that a surprising number of my friends didn’t do; I changed the channel on my radio dial and found music beyond Top 40. I also reached for random records in our collection and eventually listened to all of them. I was so lucky to have taken that risk because it changed my life. I found Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Fats Waller, Bessie Smith, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Otis Redding, Sam Cook, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones… Discovering hundreds of artists in every genre. I was obsessed with tracing the history of the music I loved. As I dug deeper I found that no artist was an anomaly. At first the revelation of Little Richard or Robert Johnson is profound and it seems as if they just appeared completely formed from the ether, though I learned from a young age that everything and everyone comes from somewhere. 

I’m currently 42 and the other day I was thinking that I might belong to the last generation to have a direct living connection to the icons of 20th Century music. It’s amazing that the first and most influential voices to ever be recorded are all less than a hundred years old. I’m not referring to the Rock and Roll of the 60’s or 70’s but the music that inspired my parents generation. The people who inspired the British Invasion, The Folk Revival and so much more. The truth is that when I thought a little longer on the subject, it seems I was wrong. I may have been able to meet or play with some of my musical heroes but they were given a history to contribute to and to pass on to the next generation. I’m not the first or the last generation to share what they’ve learned along the way. We’re all a cage of muses, an open time capsule and a direct living connection to our past. It’s our obligation to share it. 

DAVID VON EBERS

David von Ebers is a Chicago area lawyer and staff writer at ValidMagazine (http://allvalid.com), where this piece originally appeared.

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.

The New York Times’ obituary describes Mr. Seeger as a “singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change,” all of which is true. It recites the facts and figures and vital statistics of his life: He was born in 1919. He attended Harvard. He dropped out of college, moved to New York City, and got involved in the music business. He served in World War II. He refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He culled together “We Shall Overcome” from various traditional gospel songs, and it became the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. He influenced everybody from the Byrds and Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen.

But what’s missing from all these recitations of the man’s accomplishments is this: He had a deep, personal impact on the people of his generation – the generation of my mother and father – and on the people of my generation, and on the generations that followed. See, it’s not just the people who went on to make records or to give great speeches or to change the world who were touched by Pete Seeger. It’s ordinary, rank and file people like us … without whom some of those changes may not have been possible.

When my father passed away in 1994, my niece Abby was in eighth grade. At his funeral, while most of us were incapacitated by grief, Abby stood up and delivered an amazing eulogy. She talked about how much her grandfather meant to her, and how proud she was of the things he’d done in his life. At the end of her remarks, knowing it was one of my dad’s favorite songs, she sang the opening verse of Pete Seeger’s “Worried Man Blues”:

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song …

You’re goddamn right it does.

Thanks, Pete.

JEFF COOK

Jeff Cook collaborated with long time writing partner the late Tommy Bolin to write songs for Deep Purple, James Gang and Tommy Bolin solo projects. His songs have been covered by Motley Crue, Warren Haynes, Peter Frampton, John Scofield and others. He now heads his own company Coherent Music which promotes artists to AAA and Non Com radio.

Being a musician who has also done time as a promotion person for various labels, music was ever present in our home from the very moment my youngest daughter, Alexis, was born.

My first and most lingering memory is of singing her Hank Williams “Hey Good Lookin” while she drooled at me from her car seat. I got the greatest smile from her every time I did it.  She seemed to get Hank from the very beginning.

As she grew up and learned to talk, the song became “OUR” go-to duet.  By the time she was 5, it had become her solo performance piece when friends dropped by.

One day I brought the Hank Williams Box Set home and more than a few times I caught her playing the song and singing along.

What I love is most of all is…even now at the ripe old age of 15, if I start to sing the song she is right there with me belting it out! This one simple song I sang her has created a connection between us, opened up a dialog about music and…she recently returned the favor to me.

We had been invited, as a family, to join Delbert Mc Clinton for his 20th Anniv. Cruise and we gratefully agreed to board the good ship ”Rootsy and Bluesy” for a week of good music and sun.

I expected my daughter to be somewhat underwhelmed with the mostly “mature” artists on the ship.  (No Imagine Dragons here!)  However, I was delighted to watch her as she tapped her foot and swayed to Delbert’s  exceptional set and she made a point of catching as many of the artists as she could each day.  He attention was laser focused on each performance from a vast array of artists.

On about the third day she came up to me and said “Dad, you’ve got to come see this girl I saw play last night.  Her name is Jill Sobule and she is really great! “  I was a little embarrassed to admit I was unaware of this artist.  So, I agreed to go and catch her performance that evening without knowing at all what she was about.  

As the lights dimmed and Ms. Sobule stepped up to the mike, I couldn’t help but feel the excitement coming from my daughter who stood beside me.  The first song “Palm Springs” was about trying to order up creativity “on demand” and was so witty and on the money I was hooked.  She then followed with her hysterical space age love song “Jet Pack”. 

I looked at my daughter and she looked back at me…. then… she smiled that smile, the very same smile she gave me when I used to sing her “Hey Good Lookin” and we were connected by music once again.  Only this time it came from the other direction….from daughter to father.   What a gift! 

CHUCK PROPHET

Chuck Prophet is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer. His latest record is "Temple Beautiful." He is one cool California cat.

JJ Cale: Naturally

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.

Sitting here with a warm lap top listening to JJ. I’m actually getting ready to go into the studio this week to work on a new record of my own. And while I’ve learned a thing or two about making records. Yeah sure, there are tricks.  But this record has remained a mystery. How did he do it? Maybe the trick is that JJ engineers his own records.  More likely, there’s no trick at all.  Whatever . . . .  It’s a masterpiece. Check it out for yourself –the whole record is all of 30 minutes or so, what have you got to lose?  He mixes his guitar and vocal low in the mix. Lean in. It’s worth the lean.  Effortless. Greatness. Sonic abstract expressionist… buy it for yourself. Buy one for your friends and loved ones. I promise it won’t let you down. Ever.

 

 

WESLEY STACE

Wesley Stace has released 17 albums under the name John Wesley Harding. His new Self-Titled, for which he has returned to his given name, was released by Yep Roc, September 2013. He has also published three novels.

When my two kids  - now aged 7 and 5 - were toddlers, people said to me: "I bet you make a children's record now." This was never really on the cards, but perhaps as a substitute for that never-to-be-made record, I wrote a novel instead - WONDERKID - about a band who make children's records, a genre now called "Kindie Music". When you're a parent, you spend a lot of time listening to, and singing or making music, with your kids, and thus you spend a lot of time thinking about what music means to them. You also end up thinking, particularly if you're a musician, about the people who make the music your kids are enjoying: hence the novel.

Perhaps our family's greatest musical collaboration so far - and we may or may not become the von Stace Family Singers - is something we call the Ultimate Playlist. It's the twenty songs my kids love most at any given time, an ever-evolving selection, always handy on the iPhone. The songs have come to them from different sources:

Movies:
- I Like to Move It, Move It (by Sasha Baron Cohen from Madagascar)
- Theme from Ghostbusters

TV:
- Hall of the The Mountain King (Grieg, as featured in Little Einsteins: we also have versions of this by Madness, The Wombles and ELO)
- I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You and Rockaway Beach (by The Ramones and both featured in the chase scenes in Scooby Doo)
- The Tra-La-La Song (AKA Banana Splits theme)

Theatre:
- One Way Or Another (by Blondie, as sung by the Rat King in last year's pantomime in England)

Their parents:
- Rock Lobster (by the B52s)
- Don Alfonso (by Mike Oldfield)

Their slightly more corrupt friends:
- Call Me Maybe (by Carlie Rae Jepsen)
- Wrecking Ball (by Miley Cyrus)

By any standards, it's quite a collaboration and something we all take pretty seriously. Occasionally something gets voted off the island (most recently Nellie The Elephant by The Toy Dolls: they'd moved on.)

The other day, my five year old son asked for the Theme to Spiderman, which I happily downloaded from iTunes as performed by The Hit Crew. (Oddly, the Ramones recorded a version of this too.) He then asked me for the Iron Man theme. I looked but couldn't find anything that seemed like Theme to Iron Man, in the same sense that Theme to Spiderman is "Spiderman/Spiderman/Does whatever a spider can" etc. There was nothing along the lines of "Iron man/Iron Man/Can he fly/Yes he can". So we went on youtube together. It turned out that what he wanted was Black Sabbath's song Iron Man.

This was pretty much where I was ready to draw the line, because I hate Black Sabbath. Let me put that another way: I hated Black Sabbath when I was a kid because it wasn't anything like the kind of music I listened to - smart serious music with considered lyrics and acoustic guitars - and because the people who did listen to Black Sabbath looked stupid and wore their hair in a manner of which I didn't approve. And the last thing I now wanted, aged 48, was to have to listen to Black Sabbath in the car at 7.40am. I honestly would have preferred Call Me Maybe (which is totally great, by the way.)

But, in an attempt to be a good father and because I am basically, despite my prejudices, interested in all music (and could only actually remember one song by Black Sabbath, that song being Paranoid), I downloaded a digital Greatest Hits, ready to surprise my son next time he made his metallic request. It turns out - and I apologise for being an idiot, but it turns out it's good to miss out so entirely on whole genres of music in your youth, because to discover it, and enjoy it, without any baggage in your maturity is quite a thing - that Black Sabbath are AMAZING. It turns out that Black Sabbath's first album is a masterpiece; a masterpiece I would possibly never have given the time of day unless my 5 year old son had asked me to download Theme to Iron Man.

Iron Man was our gateway drug, and then (encouraged by an email correspondent, amused by my sudden left turn into metal) we moved on to The Wizard - truly one of the greatest riffs I've ever heard, featuring Ozzy on harmonica, and one of Sabbath's few happy songs: it must be about Gandalf or something - and then things exploded with the leaden evil riffage of Paranoid. Cut to a few days ago, on the school run, just before 8am: esteemed English writer James Parker, quite the Heavy Metal expert, is in the car with us, having stayed the night on his way back from DC. I casually ask Wyn, still five years old, what he'd like to hear and he pipes up from the back, in a very matter-of-fact voice, like he's made the request a million times (though he never had once): War Pigs.

So, sure, my kids will probably get into Bob Dylan - almost everyone does - and we'll be able to talk about how I saw him way back when; and they'll get into some old band having a comeback, or whose song is featured in some ad, and be amused that I have some of that band's old records; and they'll be annoyed that I don't get whatever it is they're listening to; and equally annoyed that I'm not shocked by whatever they hope to scandalize me with (as my parents were, so satisfactorily for both of us); and they'll wonder what to do with all my vinyl when I die.

But before I do, I want them to get me into everything they're listening to. Because if Wyn, aged 5, can convert me to Sabbath now, what on earth is he going to be laying on me when he's 10? And to hear Tilda, aged 7, singing in her sweet, innocent, soprano about what happens when the Wizard walks by, is something that would bring a tear to Ozzy's bloodshot eyes, as it does to mine.

KAY CORDTZ

Kay Cordtz is a journalist, currently writing about science by day and music by night. After spending half her life in New Mexico, she now lives in Port Jefferson on Long Island.

Music has dominated my life ever since I started watching American Bandstand every day in second grade. I saw (and heard!) the Beatles in Paris before they ever came to the US. In college, I was chummy with The Band. So despite my marriage to a man from a different cultural background with divergent musical tastes, it was inevitable that my children would be music people. When they were still too young to drive, I took them to concerts in Albuquerque (No Doubt, the Pointers Sisters, Coolio, Aerosmith) and when we visited New York, there were multiple nights of Bruce, Bruce, Bruce. But I still have some difficulty charting how my son Pablo progressed from an early infatuation with Michael Jackson to the heavy metal songs he writes and plays today in his band, Savage Wizdom.

He still listens to some rock and roll like John Mellencamp and still goes to those Springsteen shows if they are fairly close to home, but will travel around the country to see multiple performances by Motley Crue, Dokken and especially Iron Maiden.  He even convinced one of his metal heroes to sing on a track of his new CD. Pablo is a good guitar player, and I once hoped that he would get interested in the blues but it never happened. Jimmy Vivino once told me that young men need to play heavy metal for a time, maybe get it out of their system. But now that Pablo is past 30 and still devoted to metal, I have come to accept that it’s where his heart lies.

Maybe since he heard blues, rock and roll and jazz at my knee, and mariachi, Tex-Mex and country at his father’s, there was little room left for him to carve out his own space.  There wasn’t much reggae in New Mexico. So although I don’t pretend to “get” metal music (I’m probably the wrong age and the wrong gender) I will always be proud to have birthed a musician.

JON LANGFORD

Jon Langford is a punk rocker from Wales who lives in Chicago and paints apocalyptic visions of the American West. His new solo album Here Be Monsters is available on Indegoot Recordings on April Fool's Day 2014.

When my first son Jimmy was born in 1997 my wife went back to work within a few short un-European months and I was left at home to watch him not do very much at all. Jimmy was a pretty stoic buddha of a baby and between naps and diaper explosions we would amuse ourselves watching VHS videos of great rock bands. I thought this was an important part of his early learning. I had a video of Black Sabbath live in Paris in 1969 and would bounce Jimmy happily on my knee and sing along with War Pigs and Electric Funeral.

Imagine my surprise when 14 or so years later I'm dropping him off in Grant Park to see the reformed Sabbath play Lollapalooza. I never saw them play but I love them dearly. Jimmy told me later that he did not appreciate Ozzie's clapping and grunting through Tony Iommi's guitar solos. Now he turns me onto wild stuff like Death Grips, Killer Mike and Twin Peaks and fronts his own dynamite teen garage punk band called the UnGnomes.

JOAN WILSON

Joan Wilson, a business writer, lives up along the mighty Hudson and hopes after she is gone, she can still hear the music

We presented music to our girls in the same way we presented food — diversity was the norm and never was there any acknowledgement of “different” or cajolement to “just try it”. That our children developed a culinary breadth was evident from watching them consume sushi and vindaloo as readily as chicken nuggets. How they were internalizing their exposure to music was not as easily discernible.

One day when Maddy, our youngest, was 10, she accompanied me to that place of irrational consumerism, the mall. While we waited in line to make a purchase, Maddy suddenly and with some urgency insisted that she must go to the nearby record store. I started to suggest that she wait just a few minutes so that we could go together, but she was gone before I could finish my sentence.

In the short time she was gone, my brain ping-ponged between extreme discomfort that my 10-year-old was on her own in the mall and extreme curiosity about what CD was so compelling as to cause her to bolt. I had just finished my purchase when she returned clutching a small bag. Sixteen years later, remembering that moment when she opened the bag and pulled out a Miles Davis double CD compilation, I still bask in the feeling that all is right with the world.

SAVANNAH JEFFREYS

Savannah Jeffreys, Garland's 18-year-old daughter, has been singing and songwriting from a young age, following in her father's footsteps.

“Take me away, no looking back, in your broken-down white Pontiac”—this was the first song lyric I ever wrote. Eight years old, sitting comfortably in the backseat of our car on a drive to the beach with my parents, there was nothing that would have made me yearn to be taken away. I was just fooling around with melody and rhyme, and observing that our car was in fact a rusty and ramshackle Pontiac Deville.

My father is a songwriter. He worked on his songs in the living room as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world, making it seem like something I could do, too. As I got older, writing songs became my way of processing experiences and emotions, and when I needed to make sense of things, I’d sit down at my upright Baldwin piano and reach for the Moleskine notebook I kept on the ledge. I’d write about “you,” most often the boy of the moment or the best friend I was fighting with. Songwriting was private, something I did alone in my room until my family and friends began to tell me I was a natural. At twelve, longing to be famous and with fantasies of becoming the next Taylor Swift, I started posting videos of my songs on YouTube and performing whenever I could. I was accepted into prestigious songwriting workshops, hoping to improve my writing and see what the music industry was all about, but to my surprise instead of other hopefuls with dreams of seeing their name on Billboard’s Hot 100, I met adults who spent their time creating works of art inspired by their lives. They did it for themselves. They didn’t need the world to reaffirm their talents, and that resonated with what I’d been doing all along, and what I was truly comfortable with. The intimacy and the craft of the songwriting process are what I love most.

My most recent song began in the middle of the night after hours of tossing and turning in bed. I’d developed feelings for a friend and was compelled to tell him, so in my pitch-black room at one in the morning I whipped out a flashlight and scrawled these lyrics under my covers: "I was curious about you in the fall/You had never looked so good to me/I was curious about you in the fall/But now I’m falling for you in the Spring." In each of my songs, I imagine I’m singing directly to the person I’m writing about. I want them to feel what I’m feeling, and one of the ways to achieve this is by playing with words and phrasing, using the same tricks and schemes that a prose writer or poet might use. Repetition in the first verse emphasizes how curious I am about the potential relationship and using “fall” as a noun and “falling” as a verb evokes both the season and my emotions. The arpeggiated major chords that accompany the lyrics are light and airy, making the song even more romantic. That’s the most exciting part of all—setting lyrics against a melody that supports them.

"In the Fall" came fairly easily, but not every song does. Phrases or a few bars might pop into my head, but I can’t depend on spontaneity; I have to shape the verse, chorus, bridge, and hook. Are the rhymes too elementary, is the chord progression too generic? There are pages in my Moleskines that have been entirely scratched out, and numerous recordings of the same songs clogging up my laptop. I don’t stop writing until I’m satisfied with both the quality of the song and the state of my own emotional clarity. Now, at seventeen, I do yearn to be taken away, not by an old Deville, but by the transporting process of songwriting.

GRAHAM PARKER

Graham Parker is a British singer-songwriter, who is best known as the leader of Graham Parker & The Rumour.

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.

Amazingly, by the time she was 17 she was at a Stones concert with her mom digging every song and buying a T-shirt. Like everyone with any sense, she grew to realize that pretty much any act from the 60's and 70's were infinitely better than anything you'd hear from about 1980 onwards. But of course, she never "got" Captain Beefheart. That sound, unfortunately, remains a mystery to every female on the planet earth.

BEN GREENMAN

Ben Greenman is a New Yorker writer and the author of several acclaimed books of fiction and the New York Times-bestselling Mo Meta Blues, written with Questlove. He lives in Brooklyn.

When my kids were little, I wanted them to listen to music. I assume that every parent does, in the same way every parent wants his or her children to feel curiosity and lust or acquire skepticism or learn to discern the shapes of ideas against the murk of everything else. The trick, though, is to introduce kids to music without inflicting your taste upon them. I was telling this to a friend the other day and she jumped right on board. "Because they'll rebel, right?" she said. But that hasn't been my experience. Rather, it's been something else: passive acceptance.

That danger was apparent early. The kids laughed like crazy the first time they heard Spike Jones's "Wanna Buy a Bunny?" and they danced like maniacs the first time they heard "1999." They asked for those songs before bed, and in time asked, too, for the Ramones and Parliament and Mary Margaret O'Hara and Janet Jackson. I got them iPods of their own. But after six months or so, I noticed that they were listening to the same songs over and over again: excellent songs by excellent artists, but still a limited (and limiting) set. They weren't really exploring—and to be fair, how could they? And so the kids grew into all this music without ever growing out of it. 

On the face of it, listening to your parents’ music is acceptable, and probably unavoidable. I started the same way, playing their records without permission, memorizing all the Paul Simon and Beatles I could get my hands on. But pretty soon after that, I found a weird late-night psychedelic radio show, and a few years later, I was a record-store regular. What satisfies that urge now? Spotify has too many options, to the point where it might as well have none at all. Amazon sells records, but the absence of physical contact with an artifact makes it all very abstract. How do you browse? How do you stumble upon?

As it turned out, the answer lay with my younger son, who is greedy. One afternoon, he was out walking with my wife, and he noticed a box of dollar LPs at a stoop sale. He started going through the records hungrily, taking anything that he recognized (Michael Jackson) and some things he didn't (a Boston record, because he liked the cover: and who doesn't?). For months after that, both kids made us stop in the street whenever they saw records laid out on blankets. They bought records by Perez Prado and Nina Simone and Julian Cope and Loverboy. They organized the albums, studied the cover art. What they didn't do much of, strangely, was listen to them. Rather, the records served as triggers, or order forms: once they saw a Nina Simone record in real life, they asked me to load Nina Simone onto the iPod for them. It was roundabout, but it counted as discovery.

In the last six months or so, I have noticed a turn in both kids. The older one has drilled deeper into the artists he already knows and loves: it’s not “Start Me Up,” but “I Am Waiting.” The younger one has decided that he likes the poppiest pop songs: Bruno Mars and Katy Perry and Imagine Dragons and Rihanna and Miley Cyrus. For the most part, they've stopped asking me for recommendations, and now and again I'll hear music coming out of their rooms that I don't immediately recognize. That seems like a victory.