I was born with a deep and abiding love of music. Paul Simon’s lyric “first thing I remember I was lying in my bed, couldn’t have been no more than one or two, I remember there was a radio coming from the room next door….” from Late in the Evening hits me in the soul every time I hear it. My memories of lying in bed as a child listening to the music that was playing in my home have some strong roots. My family didn’t foster a lot of musical performance talent and very few of us can carry a tune, but as far as appreciation, we are pretty much at the top of our game - at least in the genres my dad provided. I think we’ve each picked it up from there while developing our own individual nuances, but for most of us, our taste hits the same vein that we grew up on - a lot of rock, a little doowop, some folk music, a smattering of bluegrass and big band backed by a huge host of parody-type songs with humor-driven lyrics: think Dr. Demento mixed with Woodstock or Altamont. Deep Connected Roots.
I come from a long line of salesmen and storytellers, so while I have mad love for my family’s recollections, I am hard pressed to accept every detail as true coming from this apt-to-embellish lot. Among my favorite music stories is a rumor that I was on the news as a toddler (with a blonde afro and a peace sign painted on the back of my tiny army jacket) while attending the Steve Miller Blues Band/Strawberry Alarm Clock show on my dad’s 6’4” shoulders. I have seen photographic evidence of the jacket, and I can confirm that the afro was definitely my ‘look’ for the first 6 years of life, so it has gained some traction in the may be true lane. I would seriously give up a lot for a peek at the footage, if only to know that it really happened! The most unbelievable of the Carduff music rumors - the one that claims we are related to Frank Sinatra - actually DOES have a few roots in truth. Barbara Marx Sinatra (Frank’s wife of 22 years at the time of his death in 1998) was my grandmother's cousin, and even though I never met him, the older generations of my family got to spend enough time with him that there is a trail of evidence that we are related (by his 4th marriage, that is - we are clearly not sharing any genetic matter as evidenced by our collective inability to sing in a way that can be interpreted as actual music!).
For many of my formative years, my parents owned a record store, and between that and my obvious close proximity to fame, my ego remained a lot healthier than I would have expected given the actual circumstances of my life. My musical memories involve hours of studying the covers of the albums on the shelves. They were wrapped in plastic so unless we owned the album at home, I was only getting to see the outside covers, but there was and still is a lot to be learned from the things artists place on their album covers, from the most iconic to the most obscure.
Music is a way we can reveal some ideas about ourselves without having to throw actual details into the mix. Our preferences toward certain songs, artists and genres begin to outline the story of who we are as human beings and how we operate in the world - or at least give indications around how we would like to be. It has the ability to transport us to places in time, from the earliest memories of our past to the most ideal dreams of our futures, and everything in between. Lost in music, we can blur the lines between fantasy and reality, creating whatever type of environment we need in a given moment.
Since I began with Paul Simon (no relation, but we do share a birthday!), I will also close with him. He penned one of my favorite lyrics about music, on one of my all-time favorite albums, Graceland - a not-so-subtle reminder that we are all connected through Music, no matter what laws and regulations may stand in the way of honoring that connection. Paul Simon challenged the system and pushed some boundaries to make this album. Some say he did it for his ego, while others will argue that it was for the love of the music and to raise soul awareness around Apartheid and these two inspiring groups (Ladysmith Black Mambazo and/or the Boyoyo Boys) that led him to Africa in the first place - sanctions from Apartheid be damned. I was in high school at the time so the music itself reached me instantly, but the political perspectives and ramifications continue reverberating around the world in the court of public opinion 35 years later. For me, this lyric is indicative of his intentions and rings true with my feelings, but I hold full awareness that every bit of it is rooted in my own opinion, and based on my personal raw material:
“This is the story of how we begin to remember. This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein. After the dream of falling and calling your name out. These are the roots of rhythm and the roots of rhythm remain.” - Paul Simon, Under African Skies
Enjoy the melodies and choruses of your week!