Where I Come From, Musically

Dr. Bibey came up with a post about where he comes from, and invited his readers to explain where they come from. I know from reading the good doctor’s posts that he’s somewhere in the southern US and plays bluegrass. His love of music and medicine coexist in a rather pleasant play one on the other. It’s nice that music is an intrinsic part of his life. Music is the universal language, and it mellows the hardest of hearts. I wish my doctor played bluegrass. (To be honest, I’ve never asked my doctor what types of music she likes, but I think I will during my next visit.)

In my comment to him, I briefly went through my own musical influences. It was a comment that was too short, so I thought I would elaborate here.

My first memory is of show tunes. That’s because my mother liked to sing them. “The Sound of Music” and “Oklahoma” or anything Oscar and Hammerstein. My mother was an operatic singer, but ended up being a housewife. She was also the loudest singer in church, which was an embarrassment to me as a child. I kept thinking, why doesn’t she sing normally like all the other mothers? Now I know why. She was honestly moved by God, especially in church.

Back to childhood songs: I can vividly remember her teaching us “You are My Sunshine” and “California Here I Come” and even though her grasp of English wasn’t all that great, she picked up quite a song list. My father, on the other hand, grew up in the Frozen North Woods, where he developed a love of country music. His favorite was Johnny Cash, and we knew all of Johnny’s songs and also knew not to touch Johnny’s albums without permission. Toward the late 1960s when I started my love affair with rock and roll, I started to think Johnny Cash was a rube. Later on, as an adult, I came to the realization that Johnny Cash was an absolute genius.

Now, about that love affair with rock and roll: I didn’t like the Beatles, and I thought the Stones were scary. Motown, as well, did nothing for me. I tended to gravitate toward the Doors, Jefferson Starship, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Country Joe, as well as Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. You could say that I had a Haight-Ashbury influence back then. As those bands and singers faded away, fought with each other, died or otherwise self-destructed, I picked up on Cat Stevens, Linda Rondstadt and Joni Mitchell. Storytelling songwriters were high on my list. Besides, by that time, I had purchased my first guitar, and it was easy to learn their songs.

After graduating from high school, I started listening to heavy metal, and not so heavy metal. That’s probably because I started dating a guy who was into it. We listened to Boston, Ted Nugent, Foreigner, AC/DC – you name them, I’ve probably seen them. I also started listening to the music of my father’s father, the bouzouki and mandolin music of Greece, which interested me in other world music, like from India and Africa. This was also when I really started listening to classical music. At the time, I especially liked the sound of the harpsichord and violin.

My main focus back then, though, was with female singers. Bonnie Raitt, Heart, Stevie Nicks, Carly Simon, Joan Jett. I could listen to one girl singer after another for hours on end.

My husband, who I met in the early 80s, introduced me to Elvis Costello, and also the Beatles and the Stones. Neil Young is his favorite. Although he hates for me to say it, when my son was little, he could only be soothed by country music, and that’s when we started buying Tanya Tucker, Patti Lovelace, Roseanne Cash and Tammy Wynette. After my son started playing piano, he shifted to classical music exclusively, and we were introduced to the dark and foreboding Russian composers, as well as the complete works of Beethoven and Bach.

As my son was preparing to go to college, I started learning the violin. At last I could study the instrument I really loved! At first, I concentrated on classical, but I’m branching out to other pieces as well.
Music has always been at the core of my being, and I can’t imagine a world without it.

This is where I came from, musically.