Known Johnson

April 25, 2005

Anne Murray sings “Sweet Child O’ Mine”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 10:19 pm

A coworker of Alissa’s gave her a CD he’d made of “lullabies” for the baby. The gesture is nice, but the reaction to most of the artists on the CD was almost exactly the same: no way would we want to expose our innocent child to such music. It was then that I realize that our children are doomed to be weird.

Most parents dream of the days when they’ll be teaching their kids how to ride a bicycle, play catch, read, etc., and it’s not that I have anything against that . . . but I’m excited about watching my kids discover things like art and music and movies and seeing how they interact with it. I have to admit that there’s no small amount of excitement in me for the day when our kids discover my CD collection and wonder “what is all this weird stuff?”

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve watched friends who had previously shared a seemingly similar (but, admittedly, less intense) interest in music drift further and further away from it, to the point where they rarely have any idea who I’m talking about when I mention bands I’m currently listening to. I can understand that priorities change as do interests, but music, to me, is so fundamental to who I am that I can’t fathom not keeping up. Not that I’m chasing down new fads – it’s just that there’s always something interesting, intriguing, and challenging out there. I wouldn’t really feel very alive or interested if I wasn’t able to indulge in the pursuit of new music. This is my art, this is what I obsess about. When I’m not thinking about the baby or Alissa, there’s a pretty good chance that I’m thinking about music. Call it crazy if you will, because I know it’s not as acceptable as, say, collecting books or rare artwork, but there’s nothing any less satisfying about maintaining a music collection. I could, in fact, argue that it could be more satisfying because of its tangible relationship to your own life on a day to day basis that few other artforms can share.

So when my initial reaction to a CD filled with music by the likes of John Denver, Don Ho, and Jimmy Buffet is one of an intense desire to protect my children from something that I’ve deigned inappropriate, it’s a pretty good bet that our kids are going to be a little . . . different. I’ve got a collection that runs the gamut from, in rock, the weird pop of Brian Eno to the pummelling terror of Slayer, or, in jazz, from the tender, emotive beauty of Dave Brubeck to the slashing horror-show antics of John Zorn. There’s nothing particularly pedestrian about my collection – a fact I am most proud of – but there’s also very little that is suited to young children. My fear, however, is less that my children will turn out warped from hearing something the rest of a musically uninformed society frowns upon, but more that my kids will simply be odd because, well, frankly, a lot of dad’s music might scare the hell out of most soccer moms.

When I see that the name of this generous gift of a home-made “lullaby” compilation is “Child Of Mine” and features not one but two entries by Anne Murray, I have to question how qualified I am to be a parent when my initial reaction is snort-filled laughter caused by imagining Murray’s warm-honey voice faithfully re-rendering Guns ‘n Roses’ anthem, “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” (You can’t see it here, but I paused a moment right after typing that to laugh quietly to myself, again, about this. This has happened about a dozen times tonight, by the way.) I’m trying to look at it as any parent should approach any challenging topic: be it drugs, sex, or the dangers of bad music, it’s better to face it head-on. If you aren’t teaching your kids at home what is right and what is wrong, then they’re just going to learn about it on the street . . . and bring it home.

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