I grew up in a strict family. My parents only allowed us to watch one channel, the Family Channel, and we weren’t allowed to listen to any mainstream music. We could listen to the oldies, Christian or nothing.
I didn’t really care though because I didn’t know any different. I woke up to the Beatles blasting and laid my head down to Marvin Gaye. My father ended his evenings playing the guitar in our family restaurant and my mother sang as well. They both love music and instilled it in my siblings and I.
One day my father picked us up from school and told us to roll up our windows – he had a surprise for us. As we worked diligently to close our windows my father leaned forward and turned up the volume, “Bohemian Rhapsody” began blaring through the car speakers. He was singing loudly right along and I thought it was the coolest song I had ever heard.
Music was always a huge part of my life. I began singing in church and at school at a young age. I loved to sing and I loved how it made me feel when I was on stage in front of a crowd. I was certainly shy and nervous, but my love of song was much stronger than the butterflies in my stomach.
I tried out for the church choir and sang in holiday musicals. I sang almost every Friday at my private school’s church service and was often sought out to do solos for events. I loved singing and I loved music. My father encouraged me brightly.
By the time I was in fifth grade the oldies were out of style and I fell in love with En Vogue, TLC and Mariah Carey. I remember nervously handing over the two cassette singles for my father to listen to – I needed his permission first. Then he said what he always said after I would play him a song, “they don’t use real instruments.” But he began to allow me to listen and buy what I wanted.
I would get new cassette tapes or cd’s and read the inserts from front to back, especially if there were lyrics. It was a ritual to return to my room after a cd purchase and listen to the entire album from beginning to end-the entire way through. I would pick out my favorite songs and then play them over and over. I knew every second of the song and became intimate with the lyrics.
It was the lyrics of those childhood songs that pulled my writing skills out of me. I was enamored with the love and heartbreak and blown away by the talent of expressing oneself through words. It excited me mentally on many levels. I wanted to construct language in that manner.
As I grew older I ran out of time to listen to every song on a new cd and also ran out of money to buy them. But I never gave up my musical love.
Through the years new music came to me in the forms of ex-boyfriends. Those different men in my life listened to different kinds of music. I would always rebel against their own tastes, but eventually gave way and grew to love artists in those genres.
The hardest was bluegrass. My boyfriend at the time was a witty country boy. He was a fly-fisherman who hunted and had a serious country drawl. He also spoke with the slightest lisp and had an addictive smile. There was no escaping his excitement over all things outdoors and his love of bluegrass was just as large.
He played song after song for me while he pretended to be strumming a banjo on my thigh as we would drive down the road and he copied their lyrics onto the insides of cards he left on my door. I loved him with all my young heart and in that I fell in love with the music that shaped him. Still to this day I remember him fiercely when I hear bluegrass.
Music is something I cannot live without. I still play it loudly in my car even though people stare at me. Sometimes in the middle of some crazy song sitting at a traffic light I will remember I am older and should turn it down. Then I laugh.
I love passionate music with romantic lyrics, I love hip-hop beats that make me want to dance, I love salsa because it reminds me of my heritage, I love classical when I study, but the oldies…I always return to the oldies.
I love the oldies like I love home. Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Al Green, etc. There isn’t any other type of music that moves me and reminds me to be happy the way the oldies do. The love songs, the dance songs – they are all the same to me, and whenever I need a pick-up I just turn them on and within a few minutes I am singing…and my smile grows.
I could never understand someone that doesn’t love or live by music – it makes my world go round. But what I love is that now, as an adult, I return to the incredible music that I grew up with to find my happiness.
I guess some things just never grow old.