“Rock ‘n’ roll appreciation” isn’t a class I expect my daughter’s elementary school to offer.
I get it. Math, science, English, social studies and, let us not forget, introductory classes in art and music are more appropriate for the school setting.
But that’s the great thing about being a parent. You get to be an educator. And I’m proud to admit my daughter has learned a great deal about music from her mom and me. When we’re not helping her with her homework and generally preparing her to be President of the United States, it’s nice to impart some musical knowledge outside of the normal curriculum.
Case in point: One afternoon at home, I was watching AC/DC concert videos on YouTube while writing something or other on the laptop.
My wife came into the house, my daughter bounding at her heels.
The song playing was “T.N.T.,” which, as we all know, was originally on the Austrialia-only release of the band’s second album “T.N.T.” It was later re-released on the international version of the “High Voltage” album, a classic if there ever was one.
I’m tickled to say my daughter knows this song.
“It’s the one that starts out with them going Oi! Oi! Oi! Oi!, right daddy?”
“You’re darn right, kiddo.”
But she knew something was off. This wasn’t the album version she’s heard on the radio, the one recorded back when Bon Scott was strutting out in front of the band.
In this version, Brian Johnson was growling out the
“Daddy, is this a cover band?”
“What? No! Sit up and take notes.”
So a brief explanation of Bon Scott’s death and replacement by Brian Johnson ensued. The point is, I try to make sure my kid has this stuff straight.
In all seriousness, I’m fully aware mainline academics are far more important. But, honestly, some knowledge of modern musical history is good, in my opinion.
Take Clapton, for example. You can ask anyone in their 20s or younger, but it’s not a given these days they’ll know who he is. I’ve gotten back vacant stares.
Now, the blues are my bread and butter. I’m talking about pre-World War II, front-porch stompin’, crying in my corn liquor, hard-time, killin’ floor blues! The stuff of the 1920s-1930s, when men were men and women were women and they all played acoustic guitars:
“Big” Bill Broonzy, “Blind” Arthur Blake, “Mississippi” John Hurt, the Rev. Gary Davis, Eddie “Son” House, Robert Johnson, “Memphis” Minnie, Elizabeth Cotton.
You feel me? These cats could scratch.
And thank the Lord, they all have a direct line to Eric Clapton (as well as other lesser known musicians in a loosely organized outfit which may or may not be known as the Blues Mafia, but that’s another story).
Clapton and others have kept alive the music of these greats. Many of Clapton’s most well-known songs are actually covers of these artists. And the so-called Blues Mafia is a group of artists working diligently to pass on the direct knowledge of how these artists played their music.
I’ve played this type of music, very old blues and ragtime, on guitar for more than 10 years now. I don’t play much modern music at all, at least not much I take seriously.
My daughter catches on pretty well when we talk about classic rock, alternative rock, grunge, hip-hop, country, folk and a variety of other genres. We’ve shared a lot of music; and she’s gotten me to listen to stuff I wouldn’t really have considered before.
But when it comes to the really old stuff, there’s a bigger disconnect.
There aren’t many videos of these old greats playing their music. The recordings sound old and scratchy to young ears. And when she hears me playing it on guitar, it’s just daddy playing guitar.
Her friends who don’t have a musician in the family are often mesmerized when I play, fingerpicks bouncing on the strings, chords and lines hopping up and down the neck. But to my daughter, it’s a bit old-hat. She’s heard it since birth. It’s part of the everyday background. And I’m fine with that.
At the same time, I know it’s sinking in on a subconscious level.
One day recently, it dawned on me. I was bopping along through a rendition of “Diddie Wah Diddie” by Blind Blake and caught her wiggling to the syncopated rythym. A few weeks before that, she made me leave the door to her bedroom open a crack so she could hear me playing as she went to sleep.
Deep down, I know that as she grows up a little more, I’ll be able to hold her attention more when I talk about these old masters and share their music. She already loves some older music. She’s a big fan of Roger Miller and the Dillards (you know, the Darlings from the Andy Griffith Show).
It’s my sincere hope she will look back on a childhood full of music and appreciate having learned some things beyond common knowledge. And I’ll rest a little easier knowing I did what I could to take the blues a little farther than where I found it.