Father’s Day Fifths

Aretha Franklin has been spinning in my Passat stereo for the last two weeks, and I’m as thrilled about her music today as I was during my first listen. I hope we are lucky enough to have another transcendent soul singer in the 21st century. None has come along yet.

Switching gears for a minute, Father’s Day provides an opportune occasion to delve into the genesis of musical passion as it moves from parents to children. To some degree, our folks have influenced our own tastes in music, educated us on songs from older eras, and given us a platform from which to reach out into the current world of sounds to pluck new tunes of our choosing.

My parents certainly influenced my own tastes in music. I have several memories in mind, episodes during which music singlehandedly drove the experience. Perhaps my most fond recollection is as a very young boy driving with my Dad to go play basketball. Sunday hoops were never complete without the proper audio accompaniment to warm us up on the way to the courts. Dad would always switch a few CDs in the changer beforehand. “Don’t tell Mom what we’re listening to.” Our secret soundtrack was usually either Jimi Hendrix or Led Zeppelin, both prohibited from household playback. Dad would wait a block or two before cranking up the volume. I enjoyed every second of those musicians’ cascading guitars and relentless drum beats, but mostly I enjoyed taking part in something rebellious – with my own father! Neither Jimi nor Zeppelin characterize my iTunes library now, but if “All Along The Watchtower” happened to play I would not change it.

Sunday was apparently the music day of the week, because I also remember listening to a Beatles morning show on our L.A. classic rock station. My parents owned a dozen of the legendary Brits’ records, so this familiarity allowed me to recognize most of the songs played over the airwaves during that program. But I want to skip ahead several years, to my nine year birthday party in St. Louis, MO. My friends and I decided it would be a good idea to hold a dance competition among ourselves. After we all tried all luck moving to PG rated hip hop courtesy of my DJ skills, Mom asked to be a contestant. Reluctantly we permitted it, and I scrambled through my stack of CDs for what I thought might be a good dance tune for her. I settled on Janet Jackson’s “When I Think of You.” It was a winning combination. Despite Mom’s glorious victory, or perhaps because of it, I harbored a bit of embarrassment that she had just turned it loose in front of my buddies.

As I matured, however, my musical tastes aligned much more strongly with those of Mom than those of Pops. For starters, Dad hates Prince, which, given the latter’s tremendously outstanding musical production, I consider a travesty. I think Mom and I are more attuned to R&B and Soul rhythms, while Dad prefers his rock beats. Ultimately, we all share a love of music. Music passes down through the generations and is as important to familial identity as language, religion, ethnicity, or culinary creation. Take it from Sly Stone, it’s a family affair.

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