What a great topic. Music has been such an integral part of my
life throughout my entire life that it would be fun to go back down memory lane and paint
a picture of my life in music.
Eclectic is the best way to describe the concert of my life. At one time or another,
most styles of music have contributed to my evolution, been a part of the person I was,
and have woven themselves into the fabric of my being. There are a few kinds of music that
you won't find me listening to (anything loud and discordinant, whether it be heavy metal
or some atonal modern classical piece--or most opera!), but I've always been very open
about music, and enjoyed having my musical experience broadened.
I grew up with the music of the 30s and 40s. Big Bands. Bing Crosby. The Andrews
Sisters. Johnny Mercer. My father had a large collection of 78s (I still remember when he
brought home the very first long-playing record and how we oohed and ahhed about the
ability to get more than one song on a record). I can remember once in grammar school
where our assignment had been to bring in our favorite record. Everyone brought in
something classical. I think I was probably the only honest one in the room--I brought
Bing Crosby's "Don't Fence Me In" (with the Andrews Sisters).
My father also played piano (not expertly), and
wrote music. His songs had that same 30s/40s sound. The happiest times I remember in my
childhood had music in them. Music was the one thing that seemed to "soothe the
savage beast" that could be my father.
Rock and Roll arrived! I never became a hard-core rock and roll fan. I never squealed
over Elvis or twisted with Chubby Checker. I was very much dominated by my father and when
he talked about how terrible rock and roll was, I stuck with balladeers like Vic Damon or
Andy Williams or Perry Como. There was some of the "new music" that I liked, but
I never bought it because my father told me it was trash. (I could be rich now if I hadn't
listened to him!)
I don't know how, but at some point during my teens, I also began to enjoy classical
music. I would alternate radio listening between the rock stations and KKHI, the classical
station. I still remember my grandmother finding me in her kitchen listening to classical
music and her saying "Well, that's very nice, but could you really listen to
that all day long?" She had come from a vaudeville background and those pop tunes
were her meat and potatoes.
I was ripe for folk music. But again, I didn't get heavily into it, though as music
began to evolve, my tastes ran more to The Kingston Trio, John Denver, Peter Paul &
Mary and Pete Seeger than to the Beatles.
At the same time, I learned to love Gilbert & Sullivan. I'd always loved
show music and saw many of the musical comedies that came to town (I am pleased to say
that I saw Mary Martin do The Sound of Music and Julie Andrews & Rex Harrison
do My Fair Lady live). My father always said that Gilbert & Sullivan was the
worst music ever written and perhaps it was a sign of my growing independence when I
discovered that I loved it--and wasn't afraid to say so.
A look at my records (ahh yes--remember "records"?) from that period will
show a cross section of soundtracks from movies or stage shows, things like Julie Andrews,
Barbra Streisand, some Christie Minstrels, Simon & Garfunkel, Sandler & Young, and
a growing collection of Gilbert & Sullivan, as well as some heavier classical stuff.
Two things happened between the 1950s and the 1960s. In the 50s, I fell madly in love
with Judy Garland (I have been told more than once that I'm really a gay guy in drag). I
bought everything she ever recorded that I could get my hands on, and I still have a large
collection of Garland records, CDs and videos (now now even a DVD or two). In the 60s, I
went to work for a man who was a physicist and who loved classical music. He introduced me
to a host of classical pieces I might never have heard before, and so my collection
expanded with things like the Brandenburg Concertos, Brahms' Concerto for Clarinet, and
Cesar Franck's Sonata in A (my very favorite classical piece, bar none), among many
others. I remember many nights when I was feeling depressed, lying on the floor of my apartment, in the dark, as close to the stereo speaker as possible, letting the Cesar Franck wash over me like a comfortable, soothing blanket.
In the 70s, I was working with The Lamplighters and had a close friendship with musical
director Gilbert Russak, who introduced me to a host of other classical pieces that I have
a very soft spot in my heart for now--like Humperdink's Hansel and Gretel (which he
once conducted for me, listening to a recording of it), and Kurt Weil's Mahagony,
which he described for me in infinite detail, as we listened to another recording. He
might even have made me learn to enjoy Wagner's Ring Cycle if he'd lived long
The flip flop between classical and popular has continued throughout my life. And I
continue to be influenced by other people's tastes, my collection of music often
reflecting those tastes.
When the kids started growing up and acquiring their own musical likes and dislikes
(and I'm proud to say that they were as open to listening to things that I liked as well
as I was to listen to things they liked--we all found some things we enjoyed, some things
we hated. One of Paul's favorite CDs, for example, was a recording of Beethoven's 7th
Symphony, and David introduced me to The Pogues, whom I like very much). CDs (by now we
had gotten past records) of the time include all of the stuff recorded by the kids' bands
and by several other local bands.
Peggy came along and reintroduced me to John Denver (about which I wrote recently), as
well as other music that she likes, which I discovered I also enjoyed, like Celine Dion,
Shania Twain, ABBA.
Then, of course, there's that Schalchlin guy,
who sings a little and even has a few CDs to his credit, which I may listen to now and
then. (That's sarcasm, for the benefit of those who know how much I listen to Steve's
When we began to travel, ethnic music also found its way onto the racks here. You'll
find a lot of Irish music, bagpipe music, and, though I've never been there, African
rhythms as well. Guests from other countries often shared their music too, so there are
several CDs of Brasilian music and perhaps other countries. Each is a reminder of a person
who shared our lives for a brief time, and the fun we had sharing each other's music.
It's fairly safe to say that my musical journey through life has been a full and varied
one. I don't immediately discount any music as unworthy of my attention, and feel that my
life has been enriched by that willingness to experiment. But there are some specific
pieces that evoke memories of certain periods of my life and it's always fun to take a
musical trip down memory lane.
I'll be seeing you in all those old familiar places...