Captive Audience

Every morning when I pick up my kids from my ex-wife at 7:15AM, my kids get in the car, we say hello to each other and are on our way to school.

We don’t get very far if there is no music coming from the speakers. My son or daughter will speak up and demand that I turn on some music. It’s cool with me because I have a hard time riding in the car in complete silence. Even if I’m by myself driving for hours, I prefer music or talk radio to keep my mind active. I guess this habit is now being transferred to my kids.

I can see now that I can expose them to all kinds of thing. My kids know what they like and don’t like. They seem eager to hear new sounds. There are times when I’m incredibly tired and just let the music service Pandora find songs. Other times I prepare things from a playlist of mine from iTunes or Spotify. There are a few mornings where they even ask for specific songs. Whatever way the music is delivered, I have a captive audience.

A few days ago, I set up a playlist in iTunes of soul music from a collection of songs from 1968-1975. In my opinion it’s the greatest era of popular music in America. There was some great music created during that era. Most of it was due to significant cultural changes at the time. As we were pulling away from my ex’s apartment, ‘Backstabbers’ by the O’Jays started playing. Next up was ‘I’ll Take You There’ by the Staple Singers. Third on the playlist was ‘I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby’ by Barry White. Aw man, it was on! The party had begun…yes, at 7:30 in the morning.

I had to do a little ‘splainin’ when that song came on. I have told my kids the reason why I love Barry White’s music. I told them the story of how, at age 14, his voice changed from a high-pitched Michael Jackson voice, to a tenor then bass in a matter of days. In his autobiography he said that after his voice changed, he would be in an elevator and someone would call out for the floor. He’s say, “Top please,” and everyone’s head would turn around to see where that voice was coming from. I tell my kids the stories how I grew up listening to all of his records in the 70’s. My mother was a big fan of Barry and she used to wake me up every Saturday with her Kirby vacuüm cleaner, blasting Love Unlimited and Teddy Pendergrass. She never got enough of Barry and Teddy.

I feel the Barry White song I played for them is damn near perfect. I spent many days in our basement as a kid learning how to play drums to this songs. I explained to my kids the anatomy of a great piece of music. I showed them how the drum beat that starts the song is inventive, grooving and funky as hell. Then the clavinet sneaks in after a few bars. That booming baritone voice of Barry slides in and then the song builds from there. The song simmers for a while then the heat gets turned up as the song goes on. I wouldn’t describe the song in this fashion but I would compare that song to any really good sexual encounter. If you know what you are doing, you should have a similar experience as that song. I think you get my point once you hear the song. Of course I didn’t tell my kids thus, but I digress…

I went into a few more details about how many layers of instruments are all mixed together to make this auditory masterpiece. It’s rare to hear things done so well today.

If that wasn’t enough good music, as we got closer to school, ‘Family Affair’ by Sly and the Family Stone came on. I said nothing. I wanted to hear what they had to say. My son usually stays quiet and lets my daughter do the talking, unless the song sucks and he’ll say, “Dad, next song please!”

My daughter heard Sly’s voice. She asked, “Who is this.” I told her it is Sly Stone. She said, “Wow, I love his voice.” I’m smiling on the inside because I see they might just have similar taste in music as I do-at least right now. I gave her a 1 minute history lesson on Sly but didn’t get too deep because I think they had enough of my master class I gave them on Barry White a few minutes earlier.

Great songs are great songs. They transcend generations. Every day, our playlist is something new. They seem to like all kinds of music. The one type my daughter has yet to appreciate is metal. Maybe it’s because I played Metallica, Slayer, Lamb of God and Meshuggauh for her. Too soon?

They love classic hip hop, modern pop and soul. I quiz them from time to time on who is singing to have a little fun. I tried to see if my daughter could tell the difference between Stax and the Motown sound. She got a few right  but it might take her a little more time and exploration. She still can’t tell if a song is sung by James Brown or Ray Charles yet, but that will come soon enough. I sing the Ray Charles tune ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’ to my daughter from time to time when I’m in a good mood. I can tell she likes it by the little smile on her face. And yes, I love her so….I love my little man too. I have yet to pick out a song specifically for him but I do sing the song ‘Baby Boy, Baby Girl’ by Mint Condition to the both of them on certain occasions.

It’s fun teaching my kids about music history. I absolutely love learning the history of American music since the 50’s and maybe some of that love for this aspect of our culture will be transferred from generation to generation of Craddock kids. They certainly have a library to learn from and study when I die. With over 2500 LPs, 300 cassettes, 16 8-Track tapes, over 250 45’s, 70,000 mp3s they will inherit quite a library. By the time they have kids, they might not have anything but streaming services or some other method of music delivery. Changes are happening fast and who knows what will happen in 50 years.

What I do know is that they might have a captive audience when they take their kids to school. They may tell their kids about how their father used to play all kinds of music on the way to school and how much fun it was. I hope to live long enough to talk with my grandkids about how great music was when I was a kid and how their music sucks (like all older people do). They might just agree with me, or just call me old-fashioned. That’s cool. They’ll eventually come around.

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