I love music. I always have. The first thing I do in the mornings while eating breakfast is ask Alexa to play music that fits my mood. I listen while driving, exercising, meditating and periodically I catch myself napping to my favorite tunes.
Like many people of my generation, my love of music began in church. Our church had thirty minutes of singing on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. As a youth, encouraged to sing “specials,” or stated otherwise, stand in front of the church, and sing solo or with a friend, I learned at an early age, singing was not my special talent. Ronnie Spurlin and I tried many times to make our mamas proud, but it never happened. Our “special” turned into a laugh fest, with me and Ronnie doing most of the laughing.
Mom thought perhaps my special talent was playing the piano. She talked my cousin, Nancy Wallace Bryant into giving me lessons. Now Nancy was a wonderful teacher, but she had her hands full teaching me. The location of the lessons in a building next to the football practice field proved to be a major distraction and therefore a tactical mistake. I looked out that window at those boys playing football and just knew my talents lay elsewhere. Nevertheless, I continued trying to tickle those ivories.
Nancy taught me to locate Middle C. Then I learned the right-hand notes. Next the left-hand ones. But when I started putting the right hand with the left, rhythm issues surfaced. When Nancy brought out the pentameter, and asked me to pump the pedal, well, let’s just say I marched to the beat of my own pentameter.
However, none of the above proved to be the final blow. Not by a long shot. This came when I was coerced to display my not so budding talents at a piano recital, in our high school auditorium. To say it was terrible would be an understatement. Picture Jethro Bodine, standing on the stage with ten talented girls. To add to my embarrassment, I was the only guy. My music playing career came to a screeching halt after that awkward performance.
Despite my disconcerting moment in that auditorium, music continued to be enjoyable to me. Growing up, I shared a room with my sister. She played her radio every night while we were attempting to fall asleep in our non-air-conditioned room. This was the 60’s and I started enjoying the ballads of Frankie Valli, early Rock N Roll and of course, The Beatles.
The Beatles encouraged me with, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, when hand holding was a big first step. Later I graduated to Hey Jude and The Long and Winding Road.
I started listening to Motown and fell in love with The Supremes.
Still trying to find my special talent, my cousin Edna Wallace Carlton and I stood in front of the mirror and hair brush pantomimed to the Supremes, “Stop in the Name of Love.” I can still see our moves as we perfectly timed our hands to the universal stop signal when we sang “Stop.” Our hands flowed from our hearts out to our imaginary loves to the words, “In the name of Love.” Next, we pointed to our hearts as the words, “before you break my heart,” flowed from our moving lips with no sound except the scratching tunes from our 45-rpm record player. Both of us being bonafide card carrying, voted in members of the non-dancing Baptist denomination, knew we were pushing the limits of our continued membership. Edna was much better than me and I hung up the lip sync career. This experience gave me a glimpse of potential to improve my dance skills, an activity I’m still attempting to this day.
When I hear a song, it defines a special time in my life and brings out the emotion of that time period.
My teenage years, spent in the 70’s, in my humble opinion, produced the best music of all times. Elton John, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Eagles. Carol King. And the list goes on and on. It just doesn’t get better than 70’s music.
The first concert I ever attended was with Jim Atkins. We saw Three Dog Night in Monroe, Louisiana. Man, we thought we had arrived when we saw them. This was in high school. Later, when we were in college, without tickets, we snuck into a ZZ Top concert in Little Rock, Arkansas. Life was good.
When I first started driving, Vehicle, by the Ides of March, was a favorite. Hearing that song today still brings back fond memories of driving with my friends.
In high school, I sang You’ve Got a Friend, Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie, Let’s Stay Together and Brandy. In the back seat of my mom’s car resided a small suitcase full of eight track cassette tapes. I perfected the art of placing cardboard wedges between the tape and player to keep the sounds from skipping as I drove on a bumpy gravel road.
We traveled to The Electric Cowboy in Monroe to dance during my high school years. My dancing skills improved some over the lip sync era, but not much.
College song favorites were Come and Get Your Love, You ain’t seen Nothing Yet, Bennie and the Jets, Annie’s Song, Rhinestone Cowboy, Shining Star, Play that Funky Music, Dancing in the Moonlight and while at the Rink, Pick up the Pieces got everyone on the dance floor. I noticed my dancing skills improved some in college, but I struggled to keep it in tight.
Motown came back into play in college as Gladys Knight and the Pips brought me, Midnight Train to Georgia. I’m sure glad there was not a midnight train to home because I would have jumped on it many times.
Peter Frampton came on the scene with Do you feel like I Do? I worked loading trucks for Pepsi that summer. I cranked that music up so loud it almost shattered those Pepsi bottles.
Earth, Wind and Fire deserve their own special place, spanning several time periods. My favs are September and After the Love is Gone.
Some others I just have to mention. Loggins and Messina had a bunch of goodies, but I have to say Your Mama don’t Dance and your Daddy don’t Rock and Roll as a meaningful one. Michael McDonald and The Doobie Brothers, What a Fool Believes is right up there. Michael Jackson’s I’ll be There, and Rock with You are great. Last, Firefall’s Just Remember I Love You always brings a smile to my face
1977 produced Saturday Night Fever. The Bee Gees made me wonder How Deep Is Your Love and I danced many times to Stayin Alive. And yes, while dancing, I pointed my finger in the air deliberately while sporting my huge bell bottoms and an open collared three button shirt showing my gold necklace and chest hair. The sideburns were long and the hair big. The shoes were tall and platform. Chicks dug it. At least I thought they did! Or perhaps the disco ball blinded my vision.
I went through a strange period where I loved me some Ronnie Milsap. Two favorites were There’s No Getting Over Me and I Wouldn’t have Missed it for the World.
After college, during my bachelor period, I got into Todd Rundgren’s Hello Its Me, and A Dream Goes on Forever. Jackson Browne brought me Doctor My Eyes, The Pretender and Running on Empty. My bachelor pad had the ever-popular cement blocks and three board entertainment center with massive speakers. I painted mine red. It was always SO impressive to the girls. LOL. Todd and Jackson spoke to me. I also listened to Willie tell Mamas not to let their Babies Grow up to be Cowboys. Steely Dan’s Do It Again, Ricki Don’t lose that Number and Reelin in the Years, blared as well. Good times.
Once married, I went into the 80’s and 90’s with terrible music. Several movies produced some decent songs.
Urban Cowboy moved me toward my country roots. I loved Bud, who was from the small town of Spur, Texas, as I watched and related to his lessons learned about life and love in a big town, as he chased after Sissy. I scooted boots and Cotton-Eyed Joe to Lookin for Love, Look What You’ve Done to Me and Could I Have this Dance. I wore my best Dingo boots and had my Wranglers starched. But my country dancing still left something to desire, so my bride told me.
Flashdance caught me in my best aerobic outfit. Jethro Bodine again in a room full of girls, doing doggie kicks and grapevine traveling to What a Feeling and Maniac.
I once had the tremendous honor of seeing Ray Charles perform up close and personal. Talk about someone who was one with the piano. He rocked it. I heard the classic, Georgia and also a favorite, I Can’t Stop Loving You.
My wife, being the classy one, started me down the jazz road. Al Jarreau and his scat singing had me humming along with Mornin and one of our all-time favorites, We’re in This Love Together. Gino Vannelli added I Just Wanna Stop to our favs. George Benson’s Nothings Gonna Change My Love for You, gets my blood flowing. We once went to a Najee concert in Tulsa. Very much in the minority, I once again discovered rhythm was not my special talent, while grooving and chair dancing to Rendezvous and Still in Love.
Lou Rawls is in a class by himself, with the song of all songs; Lady Love. This is the anthem of our marriage. I’ve tried to sing this to my lady many times and discovered my special talent is still not singing.
Other jazz favorites are Boney James, Dave Koz, David Benoit, the Rippingtons and Kenny G.
Whitney Houston ranks as the best female vocalist I never saw in concert. How could one not admire, Didn’t We Almost Have it All, Where do Broken Hearts Go, Greatest Love of All, or I will Always Love You. And who could ever forget her unbelievable performance in the 1991 Super Bowl when she sang The National Anthem.
I did get to see two of the absolute best female artists of my time. Adele singing Rollin in the Deep, Set Fire to the Rain or Someone Like you…well, enough said.
A remarkably close second to Adele, if not a tie for first, is Celine Dion, who we saw in person in Vegas. Because You Loved Me and My Heart will Go On, made what little remaining hair I have stand straight up.
Not as popular is Anita Baker, but I sure like Givin You the Best that I Got. I also like Wynonna Judd’s, To Be Loved by You.
Barbara Streisand is a bucket list concert for me. I’d love to hear her classics, People and The Way We Were.
Nora Jones is an honorable mention female artist. Come Away with Me.
My wife drug me kicking and screaming to a Michael Bublé concert. Don’t tell her but I really enjoyed him. Feeling Good.
Jimmy Buffett concerts are always a blast. Come Monday.
After the millennial, I reverted to 70’s music for years and years. My boys relived my youth as we played Beach Boys and Billy Joel. Can you sing, Good Vibrations or Uptown Girl?
Today I am exploring Madeleine Peyroux and a group called The Hot Sardines. Check them out.
Ed Sheeran intrigues me. I’m close to jumping on his wagon.
So, what is my favorite song of all time? I’m gonna cheat and say it is a tie. Both songs are from the 70’s. James Taylor’s Fire and Rain and Elton John’s Your Song tied for my favorites. Oh, and Rod Stewarts Maggie May. I must add Louis Armstrong’s, What a Wonderful World. And I also like….
“Hey Alexa, play Pandora,” I said this morning.
“Which one of your 895 stations would you like for me to play?” she retorts.
“Just pick one that has a good beat so I can dance,” I say.
“You know you have trouble keeping it in tight,” she says smugly.
I love music but I’m still looking for my special talent.