Music and Me

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I started listening to popular music when my mother played the radio or we watched “Your Hit Parade” on my grandmother’s TV in the early 1950s. I remember “Mockin’ Bird Hill,” “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window,” “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes,” “I Went to Your Wedding,” “Mona Lisa,” “Mule Train,” and one of my mother’s favorites, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by Nat King Cole.

But in 1956, when I was 9, along came a popular song that spoke to me. It was “The Wayward Wind.” I always loved the wind–I still do today. By then we lived next to the railroad tracks: “I guess the sound of the outward bound / Made me a slave to my wandering ways.” I never took up those wandering ways, but the idea, the draw, the urge has never left me.

Then when I was 12 I discovered American Bandstand on TV and KFWB Channel 98 on the radio, and I found my generation’s music. Here’s a list from that year, 1959; I remember almost every one of these, and can still recite at least a line or two from most of them: http://www.musicoutfitters.com/topsongs/1959.htm

For my 13th birthday, in 1960, I got a transistor radio! And all kinds of music started to speak to me: fast songs, slow songs, instrumentals, pop music, folk music (and later protest songs), country, western … I liked some of just about everything.

A year later I started high school and joined the band. I had a terrible sense of rhythm, so of course I became a percussionist. (I learned much later that I have a pretty good ear and probably could have done fairly well on an instrument that actually produced notes.) For four years of high school and a year and a half of college, the band was my social group, both in and out of school. Every boy I dated was in the band, at my school or another, till I met my first husband when I was 19.

I wonder how my life would have gone differently had I joined the glee club instead of the band. A couple of my friends who were in the glee club urged me to do so. But when I was in grade school, someone told me that I couldn’t sing well–and I believed it. However, it wasn’t true. And in my junior and senior high school years, I sang alto in the church choir.

I have realized in the course of my advanced years that there are at least two areas that had I really gotten into them, would have taken over my life: music and sailing. Either one of those probably would have been my life, given a chance.


Why I Love Cowboy Music

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I grew up with Hoppy and Gene and Roy, and Dale and Annie, too. I think that as many of my basic values came from the Lone Ranger as from my Catholic schooling: Do what’s right, no matter what anyone thinks, and do it for its own sake, because it’s right, then don’t stick around to take credit for it.

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the real people, were my first inspiration for having a multiracial/multiethnic adoptive family of kids with special needs.

I’m not much of a one for having heroes: there are people who live right and people who don’t. I do, however, like to acknowledge those who taught me some things about being a person who lives right.

Poem for a Trumpeter

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I was looking through some old papers and found this poem. I wrote it when I was 18. It was inspired by one specific person but here it is dedicated to all the trumpeters I’ve loved–there have been several. You know who you are.


head thrown back, eyes closed,
he sits and waits,
hearing silent tones and
holding cold, unfeeling brass

suddenly the moment comes, he
stands and readies
sounds of all life’s unsaid words,
smooth, sad, sweet, and sure

low lonesome keening wail —
laughter in the night —
lies easily told, unrepented —
laments for the voice alone

brass becomes supple flesh
born of unbreathed dreams
broken, braced, and blown
blue midnight without stars

Carrying It with Me

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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