Music, Music, Music (with apologies to Stephen Weiss, Bernie Baum, and Teresa Brewer)
Posted November 4, 2016on:
Replying to a comment in my last post got me thinking about the music that has shaped my life.
As anyone who knows me for more than ten minutes knows, one of the two life regrets I have is that I can barely carry a tune on my own. However, I have been a lifelong music fan. (I think the first song I remember hearing on the radio was “Venus,” sung by Frankie Avalon – yes, I AM that old; live with it.)
I was hooked. Not just on the song, but on the way the words and melody fit with each other, the way the sounds came out, the harmonies…. I still am hooked on music all these years later.
As I grew older, I found that the songs I loved had certain characteristics:
- Often, the singer had an unusual voice
- There were complexities in the arrangements – harmonies and counterpoints and descants
- It moved me just by its magnificence
- It had words that rang true to some part of my life
- It had something in it that helped me cope somehow with some part of my life or some issue I was struggling with
Fortunately, my parents also liked music – chores were done to the Texaco Sunday Opera in the background; Dad liked pop music, and was often the one staying up late with me to watch the late night music shows. My Grandma was a fan of The Monkees (long story – ask me elsewhere about that). Mom loved musicals and show tunes and musical comedy such as Danny Kaye, and Allan Sherman. The Beatles hit the US when I was in 5th grade, and their excellent lyrics hooked me even more.
When I got old enough, I started hanging out in Greenwich Village – an excellent place for someone who loved music. There, I fell in love with Richie Havens, Raun MacKinnon, Laura Nyro, David Bromberg, Weeden & Finkle (later Finkle, Weeden and Faye), Christine Lavin, a cappella music, Buzzy Linhart, Eric Frandsen, and so many others.
Then prog rock came along. It had all the complexities I loved, plus Chris Squire – a bassist who often played top line leads with his bass. It also has Phil Colllins and Carl Palmer (I love a good drummer – always have) And brought me more to listen to jazz and classical music.
My taste in music has kept expanding as I’ve grown. To this day, I still hear new stuff and fall in love with it. My friend Gundo can tell you about the first time he showed me the video for “Wheels” by the Foo Fighters. I pretty much fell off his couch when it was done. And Marc can tell you about the time at the Nassau Community College Folk Festival I first heard Richie Havens do an a cappella cover of Pink Floyd’s “On the Turning Away.” I was literally left speechless. Megan could tell you (if she was still alive) about the first time I heard Tom Paxton perform “The Last Thing on My Mind.” Sue can tell you about how watching the 25th anniversary PBS showing of “Les Miz” not only left me speechless, but gave me two new singer obsessions: Alfie Boe and Norm Lewis.
That said, there are songs that have shaped my life. Sue and Marc have seen the looseleaf where I’d been copying lyrics since the first time I saw “Fiddler on the Roof.”
There are all sorts of sources for those songs, so I will list here some of them, in the hope that you may know and feel the same about them.
- Follow – Richie Havens
- On the Turning Away – Richie Havens a capella version
- You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught – from South Pacific
- If I Loved You – from Carousel
- No Time At All – from Pippin
- If I Never Spend a Morning Without You – Andy M. Stewart and Manus Lunney
- Is A Puzzlement – from The King & I
- Corner of the Sky – from Pippin
- The finale of the Firebird Suite – Igor Stravinsky
- Video – india.arie
- I’m Still Here – Stepehn Sondheim (as performed by Elaine Stritch)
- Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil) – by Yes
- Run with the Fox – Chris Squire
- Too many Paul Simon songs to single any out
- What Makes you DIfferent (Makes You Beautiful) – Backstreet Boys
- Too many Christine Lavin songs to single one out
- Circle of Fifths – Raun MacKinnon
- The Last thing on My Mind – Tom Paxton
- Most songs by Allan Sherman
- Most songs by Tom Lehrer
- Waving Flag by K’naan
- Take me to the Alley by Gregory Porter
- Bring Him Home – from Les Miz
- Way too many other songs to enumerate
So, these are some of the songs that have shaped me in one way or another, and why music is so important to me.