Sunday, April 19, 2015

How important is music in your life?

“Give me the beat boys and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away. “

Those words written by Mentor Williams and immortalized by Dobie Gray in 1973 say it all for me. They speak to the importance of music in my life and it seems to me most of my friends of a certain age. I cannot remember a time in my life where music was not present at least in my mind. It seems that no matter what I was doing, there was a tune playing in the background.

Even, standing out there in the middle of center field waiting for that next fly ball or riding the bus to school I’d be humming the melody to Buddy Holly’s “Rave On” or “Tutti Fruitti” by Little Richard! A great deal of the time, the music was really there. I remember wading into the salty Atlantic water at Jacksonville Beach listening to a transistor radio on the edge of a blanket blasting out the tunes from “WAPE - The Big Ape.” or driving to pick up a date listening to WPDQ pumping out the hottest song of the day. Who can forget those bright summer evenings, sitting in the car at the drive in talking and laughing with the music coming from the drive in speaker hanging on the car window providing a happy backbeat to the conversation?

It wasn’t just rock and roll either. I remember being on the high school band bus on the way to or from the football game with strains of John Phillip Sousa running through my mind. Of walking across campus in college with my trumpet safely packed away in its case. I had two destinations for that, one was the Band Room for the Marching Gamecocks and the other was the Naval Armory for I was also a member of the Drum and Bugle Corps. The latter was not in my plans but when the Battalion Commander learned that I could play trumpet, my fate was sealed. Despite having to maintain spit and polish on my trumpet and the Springfield model 30 rifle I was issued. I had to submit to inspection twice, especially when the Gunny or the Major inspected the battalion, but it was well worth it! There was a song in my head as I walked across Davis Field at a perfect 120 beats per minute. I still remember passing in review with the corps as the last company of the battalion with the music in the sun filled air.

Left: "Mi Amigo kleine" by Albertoke from nl. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - Even my times at sea while I was in the reserves were surprisingly filled with rock and roll. Evenings in the middle of the Atlantic would always find a bunch of sailors huddled around a short wave radio listening to one of the European stations. One of strongest strongest musical memories was cruising up the English Channel aboard the USS Little Rock into the North Sea listening to the newly minted “Radio Caroline” blasting its illegal signal from the “Mi Amigo” anchored off Felixstowe. Then there were the parties thrown for us in Amsterdam and London where rock and roll with a European flair filled the air. This was the summer after the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was my first exposure to the British and European artists that somehow did not cross over the pond to US Audiences. The most notable of these was Helen Shapiro who, before she was sixteen years old had been voted Britain's "Top Female Singer." The Beatles' first national tour of Britain, in the late winter/early spring of 1963, was as her supporting act! You should catch some of her songs on You-Tube.

I have the sense that the music of today does not permeate the lives of the millennial generation as much as the music of our day did ours. At the very least, for them music is a private experience via i-Pods and little white ear buds. On my way to the radio station on campus I see my share of them dangling from ears as they walk to their next class in communal solitude. To the i-Pad’less there is only silence, broken only by muted conversations on a cell phone and the scurry of feet. It may be a conflated memory on my part, but the patio behind Russell House back in the day seemed to have a soundtrack of its own; happy voices and rock and roll from at least one transistor radio.

I think I prefer our way! Oh MY!

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