Defining Music: A Family Affair

When my Dad passed away, he left a collection of old records – mainly from the ‘big band’ era of the ‘30s and ‘40s including: Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Fats’ Waller, Duke Ellington and, of course, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.

Plus, those great vocalists, including: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Patti Page and Dinah Shore – along with vocal groups like the Ink Spots and the Andrew Sisters.

They left a legacy … respect … towering talent … a state of mind that reached out for the new, that others would later build on – links in a chain handed down from generation to generation.

“America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music”. Glenn Miller

Yet, looking at those old ’78’ records, I knew that there was a great story behind every one of these artists. If we consider them pioneers; who did they see as pioneers? Like Isaac Newton’s famous quote … did they see themselves as ‘standing on the shoulders of (musical) giants’? And, what compelled them to play and develop their signature style of music?

When our weekly group plays down at EJ’s in Baden, people come up all the time with requests from the ‘50s / ‘60s … current stuff … rock, country and various genres

I asked our ‘Almost Every Thursday Night’ band (whose members have drifted in and out over the past 6 years) to give their own short assessment as to why they play – including Matt, EJ’s proprietor, who says he’s always enjoyed live music and he knows many of his patrons who walk through his doors love that hometown sound.

“I’ll tell you about the magic, and it’ll free your soul /
But it’s like trying to tell a stranger ’bout rock and roll”
Lyrics for: Do You Believe in Magic?

So, to paraphrase some band members – in alphabetical order:

Larry: ‘It’s when singing or playing, you get to share what’s in your heart – what they see is me.’

Mac: ‘It’s about maintaining a connection with the audience and my commitment to that connection is critical … beyond a common social interaction.’

Morris: ‘The challenge of learning new songs, more or less on the spot, keeps it interesting and fresh.’

Paul: ‘It’s a part of life … old days and good remembrances … the love of beautiful instruments.’

Richard: ‘It’s about reminding yourself that the worst thing that can happen is that you break a guitar string or something; but for most of the world, it’s life or death every day. It’s the freedom to express who you are.’

Terry: As a seasoned professional with 50 years experience, says he loves music and simply likes to share with others’.

Will: In his 20’s and easily the youngest of the group, this virtuoso says that ‘he grew up with the classic rock tunes played by his parents and disdains commercial radio today. He says that it’s not often one has the opportunity in life to communicate to others without saying a word.’

So, because I had grown up with them; I agonized over what to do with my dad’s record collection. I was certainly appreciative the music’s quality; but not the scratched, and sometimes cracked condition, of his records. I think he loved the mere physical presence of them, as a tangible reminder of his youth. And I love them because they reminded me of him.

Eventually, though, I decided to trade them for some ‘greatest hits’ from my own generation.

What made that decision easier was the realization that my Dad was a practical man and I’m sure he would have agreed with getting what I wanted. Ironically, because of online tunes, I’ve also have access to all the great classics of my father’s era. And, because of my dad, I know exactly what to look for.

Music has been described as having the power to supply happiness and freedom to those who make it and those who listen to it. Today, because of music’s magic, my dad lives on … links in a generational chain … wondering who’s next?

Fred Parry (2012)          www.fredparry.ca

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