As I matured and moved into college away from high school, a white boy criticized me for not knowing The Beatles.
To this day, my favorite song by the Fab Four is "Revolution," and I still teach it as protest poem.
John Lennon was shot dead during my freshman year in college.
Friday, April 28, 2017
Yet, there were people and songs who floated to the top despite my basic teenager oblivion. (Rod Stewart never did anything better than "Maggie May" in my opinion.... and I think that still holds.)
There was a song from "Saturday Night Fever" that I liked, though, and that was Yvonne Elliman's cut.
YVONNE ELLIMAN: "If I Can't Have You":
But I hated most disco. At this point, I was beginning to appreciate women in rock. So I backed up a little bit and pointed myself directly at Heart. "Barracuda" is the one everybody marvels over, but I always loved Nancy Wilson's guitar prelude to the song below. That's about the time I started wanting to learn guitar myself.
HEART: "Crazy on You":
Another song that "got me" as the year rolled into 1978ish or so was Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street." And we thought the 1970s sucked. (And by the way, alcoholism sucks, too. RIP, man.)
GERRY RAFFERTY: "Baker Street":
Winding out my high school years, there was a band that caught me with "Dark Side of the Moon." I went on to love EVERYTHING they did. To this day, my favorite song of all is "Wish You Were Here," but that one was later. The one song that took over my last year in high school was this particular cut (of course), although tracks like "Comfortably Numb" are better.
Hey, we were kids. And, who knew that I'd one day be a teacher?
It's pretty interesting to chart the course of one's musical life. (I could do the same with books, but I think fewer people would relate.) I mean, music is the soundtrack to your life, right?
So I thought it would be a hoot to pick music and artists who have helped to lift me up, or empathize with me, or give voice to something I couldn't name, or make me think in a new way.
We will begin with my first venture outside of campfire and Christmas songs into the world of rock music (or pop, I suppose). What can I say, was I ten?!
THREE DOG NIGHT: "Joy to the World":
I also got briefly into the Osmond Brothers, but I think we can skip them. My next big love was Elton John. I was in sixth grade, so he hooked me with "Bennie and the Jets." Of course, since then, I have come to love other songs of his much more, such as "Rocket Man" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," among others, but it was "Bennie" that turned my head, so....
ELTON JOHN: "Bennie and the Jets":
And then I was listening to the radio (you know, those little AM transistors you held to your head to listen to at night under the covers? The station I grew up with as a teeny bopper was WLEE Richmond, Virginia.) One evening I heard a song that hit my 13ish year-old brain so hard I couldn't shake it out of my head. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever heard. Turns out it predated Elton, and the guy had a bigger hit in "American Pie," which I'd heard before, but this one turned me inside out.
DON MCLEAN: "Vincent":
Next thing I knew? I was in sixth grade. Everybody else is listening to the Jackson Five, or that crappy "Seasons in the Sun" song, and I'm not caught by much. Then came ABBA. They were so unusual, their voices so high, lyrics so catchy. And their pop hooks (not that I would've known then to call them that) were simply addictive. I could NOT not sing along. Meanwhile, my brother was listening to KISS and loud guitars (early metal, I guess?) and I couldn't relate. If forced to choose then, I'd have picked my Dad's John Denver records. I could at least make out the words.
I sort of liked the Eagles then, too, for that reason.
So I was on the cusp of high school, freshman year, and one of my black friends introduced me to a song I will never forget. We'd probably just shared a joint. (No judging me!) If ABBA makes one dance (frankly, "Dancing Queen" is better for that, especially if you're feeling campy), this one you CANNOT sit still to. The bass destroys. I'd never heard anything like it then, and no one has topped it since in terms of sheer funk (although, later, Meshell Ndegeocello's bass would teach me much). That is a white girl's description and it's the best I can do. But this song was brilliant and therefore will cap off this post.