Music has always been an important part of my persona. As a 60-and-none-of-your-business-year-old I often reflect on the music I listened to as a young person and try, in some unimaginable way, to compare it to the music young folks are listening to today.
I guess in some ways that must make me a lot like my grandparents who were having a hard time with Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys or the Beatles. They thought there was no way “that” music would be around as long as the great artists of the late ’30s and ’40s, Frankie Laine, the Mills Brothers or Bing Crosby.
Trying to remember that discretion is, indeed, the better part of valor, let’s move on.
I still do a lot of deejay work for weddings, class reunions and parties and we’ve just come through one of the greatest periods in music history. Many a Saturday night for the past 30 years, but particularly the last six years, I’ve been spinning the hits for 50-year reunions and playing a whole lot of Motown and British Invasion music from the mid-late ’60s.
Could there have even been a better period? No way!
The Temptations, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, The Dave Clark Five along with the domestic folks like The Beach Boys, Jay and the Americans, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The list could go on and on.
I didn’t go out of the house on a Saturday morning until American Bandstand was over. Usually my Saturday afternoon destination, if I didn’t have a baseball game, was the Lee-Graham Community Association swimming pool — where I’d unfurl the beach towel and plop like a walrus on the grass with my transistor radio and listen to Casey Kasem and the American Top 40.
Dick Clark and Casey Kasem were not negotiable on a Saturday.
But for the purpose of today’s rumination, let me advance the calendar a few years.
In my mind, the ’70s was the decade of the great balladeers. James Taylor, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot and John Denver come to mind right away.
I try to walk between 3 and 5 miles a day and generally I do it to five John Denver songs. Every now and then, I’ll throw in something by one of the other three. If the ’60s were an era of music that had a great beat and was easy to dance to, the ’70s ballads were commentaries on life and love.
I just feel compelled to share some of those great lyrics with you today.
John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” hits me from the very first stanza.
He was born in the summer of his 27th year,
Coming home to a place he’d never been before.
That speaks to a wanderlust that I supposed I inherited from my father. I love to travel, see places I’ve never seen. I’ve been pretty blessed in that respect.
I love to just get in the car and drive. When I first moved to Rome in 1984, I’d spend my time away from work on the road traveling across the Ridge and Valley region, which stretches into North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama.
We really live in a beautiful part of the planet and there’s a lot to see, particularly if you get out of the car and meander down a trail to a spectacular waterfall.
John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” is where discretion kicks in. I love the whole song and there’s one stanza in particular that just speaks so much to me, but let me just cherry pick two verses.
Like the mountains in spring time, and
Let me drown in your laughter.
The mountains in spring time are a period of rebirth, a reminder that there is renewal and fresh life after a period of dormancy.
The tapestry of Taylor Ridge in the fall is unmatched but I do love the spring time when the wild azaleas, rhododendron and mountain laurel just make my heart happy.
As far as laughter goes, it is unquestionably the best medicine on Earth. I can’t think of anything I enjoy more than the laughter of a child.
Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle.”
There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.
Isn’t that always the case!
One of the great things about aging is that we all evolve as humans. Things I liked when I was 18 are pretty different than the things I like to do today.
And we’re always in such a hurry today. I wish that time would slow down so that I could spend more time doing things I want to do instead of doing all the stuff that I have to do.
James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” was actually penned by Carole King.
Winter, spring, summer or fall,
All you have to do is call,
and I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend
There’s not a whole lot of explanation needed here.
How many fingers does it take for you to count the number of folks that fit that description. I thank God for each and every one of them, especially those who offered help after my cataract surgery last week and in advance of the second eye procedure next month.
Finally, I add Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind.”
When you reach the part where the heartaches come,
the hero would be me.
Nice thought, but I’ve never ridden anywhere on a white horse, or horse of any color for that matter.
I haven’t heard lyrics like any of these in the overwhelming majority of what is called music today. I wonder if the kids today will have fond memories of today’s stuff 50 years from now.