I had three musical childhoods. How did that happen? Easy, I was what is known as a ‘late child’ or maybe SURPRISE would be a better word. To hear my parents tell the story, they don’t know how I got here. I’m figuring that’s not true. I have a much older brother. So, I have three distinct musical heritages.
My parents swung to the orchestras of the 1940s and early 1950s. My brother to rock and roll from the days of Bill Haley (and Patience and Prudence) right though the 1960s teen death songs and early Beach Boys. I showed up in time to groove to the psychedelic rock era, big hair, broad shoulders, and disco. Who else is nodding in time to Bee Gees besides me?
The big band era passed with little notice from me. That era belonged to my parents, and althoughmy mother taught me to cha cha and Lindy, it was more a chore than a delight. Frank Sinatra made me roll my eyes in long-suffering LP silence while I waited my turn to put Cream or Donna Summers on the turntable. Yes, turntable. On a big console stereo unit in our living room.
My brother’s music probably made the biggest impression on me. First, his records all played with something called a ‘spider’ in the middle. As a child, I thought that was really cool. Second, he was my big brother, and I idolized him. He was and is one of the people in the world that everyone loves. Whatever he did, I wanted to do. Whatever he liked, I liked. That included music. So the soundtrack of the late 50s and early 60s provided the backdrop of my life.
Lesley Gore died last week. For some reason, I felt her death more than other idols of my generation. I remember wanting to cut my hair so I could wear it in a flip, just like hers. Never happened. And I remember wondering what boy would be so stupid to jilt her. Most of all, I remember going to my friend Judy’s birthday party. Her mother put Judy’s Turn to Cry on the playlist. Judy swore her David would never make her cry. Seems to me at one reunion or another I discovered that they had married, and divorced. The fact that they married was awesome (in the real definition of the word) enough for me.
Many of the musical artists of my ‘natural’ childhood died early. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll took their toll on my generation’s music. Although I was sorry for their loss, I never felt it. Not the same way I felt Lesley Gore’s death, Jan Berry’s death, Carl Wilson’s death, and Dennis Wilson’s death, among others. The death of these and other artists of the era told me time was marching on. Lesley Gore in particular. When I read of her death, I was visiting a friend named Judi. Judi is four years younger than I. The name was unknown to her. Until I hummed a few bars of Judy’s Turn to Cry. She knew the song, not the artist. I understood then that I had leapfrogged a musical generation. The knowledge somehow increased my loss.
How about you? What is your musical generation?