"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. Music is the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part"-Nick Hornby
"Life ain't nothing but a good groove. A good mix tape to put you in the right mood."-The Beastie Boys
I don't know any baby songs. Not a single one. Sure, I know the chorus to "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands." And I make up my own sentences in French to the tune of "Frere Jacques." But really, I hear other parents singing childrens songs to their kids and while they ring slightly familiar, I don't think I know enough of any kids songs to make it through a whole tune (even if I was onstage at our local karaoke dive bar and the words were right in front of me.) I chalk this disability up to the fact that my parents were immigrants and weren't always around to sing me songs during my childhood.
But the funny thing is that I sing to the Peanut all the time. Most of the time, I make up the lyrics, the chorus, and the melody. But it doesn't matter what the BossLady and I sing to her. The Peanut loves it. Any time she hears her parents singing to her, it puts a big smile on her face. It just goes to show that we're all born with a love for music and that this love is part of what makes us all human.
As for me? I've had a long, passionate love affair with music my entire life. And like most people, I can trace the entire arc of my life through music. When I was young, I remember listening excitedly as local legends like Afrika Bambatta, Run DMC and LL Cool J announced their arrival on the streets of New York. During the angst-filled, early-teenage years, I recall being in my room with headphones on and listening to the haunting sounds of the Cure, Morrissey, and Depeche Mode. In my late teens, I spent a lot of time with friends hitting the local jazz clubs and hearing young talents like Roy Hargrove and Terence Blanchard, guys who seemed not much older than me but who would later go on to reach jazz stardom. By the time I reached college, I was listening to everything and anything. My personal soundtrack was a cacophony of music, encompassing everything from world music to techno to hard-core rap. But through it all, I never forgot my first loves...rock and pop (this might have to do with the fact that when I was 12 years old, the first live concert I went to see was Rush in Madison Square Garden.)
Aside from that first concert at the Garden, I've had a series of
unique musical experiences that I'm sure contributed significantly to
who I am today. Living in NYC has afforded me opportunities that were
amazingly unique and which I'll treasure forever. When I was 13, I not
only saw the Who live at Shea Stadium but also watched Simon &
Garfunkel in Central Park perform in front of 500,000 people. When I
was 18, I smoked a joint with Sting at a friend's apartment as he
discussed the artwork of Botero. I once sat front-row and saw Eric
Clapton perform live at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. I heard
Sophie B. Hawkins sing "Damn. I wish I was your lover" with an acoustic
guitar in my friend's office. I saw Sonic Youth perform in NYU's
auditorium, Beck at the top of the World Trade Center, and KRS-One at a
local high school. I've been backstage with Springsteen and the Black
Crowes. And I've seen Prince, the Rolling Stones, U2 and David Bowie
live in concert more times than I can even remember. These are all some of the strongest memories in my life.
But we all have musical memories, don't we? I've always believed that there are times in a person's life when, very occasionally, a song or an album can express who you are, perfectly. Similarly, there are times in one's life when it seems as if the music was perfectly aligned with the times. These song or album memories can burn in one's mind as strongly as the events that they marked. Will I ever forget leaving New York and driving cross-country alone to start college in California while listening to U2's Joshua Tree? Will I ever forget listening to The Grateful Dead playing "Terrapin Station" while taking mushrooms and watching the sun set in Red Rocks Amphiteater? And though I can't remember any details regarding a break-up with an ex-girlfriend, will I ever forget listening to Sinead's "Nothing Compares 2 U" over and over again? At this point in my life, the memory of those songs is stronger than the experiences that I connect them with.
But now that I'm a father, I obviously have much less time to listen to music or keep up with current bands. Instead of putting on some headphones and listening to music for hours on end, I find that songs have become background music to me. Or more like a diaper-changing soundtrack. And for the first time in my life, I have to really struggle to listen to new music. And it's tough because there's a lot of new music out there that I find myself really liking: Connor Oberst & Bright Eyes, Kanye West, Danger Mouse, Maroon 5, the Killers, and Beanie Siegel.
As the Peanut gets older, I'm assuming that I'll have even less time to listen to my own music. And though I'm semi-dreading it, I know that in order to bring more smiles to my daughter's face, I'm going to be spending a lot of time listening to the Wiggles, Ralph's World, Laurie Berkner, or They Might Be Giants. I can accept this. Mainly because I'm so infatuated with my daughter that I'll do anything to put a smile on her face. My new mission in life is to make her life as happy as possible. But at the same time, I can't help feeling a little sad that music is playing a little smaller role in my life.
But for now? Well, if you happen to see a tall Asian guy wearing sunglasses, walking around Tribeca singing Morissey's "suedehead" to a smiling little baby in a stroller...you'll know who it is.
(p.s. Please feel free to shout out any new musical recommendations you might have. I'm always on the lookout. Just bought new releases from Moby and Beck. Anything else I should get?)