I'm starting to note my age. I remember the early Summer of 1993, when I was blessed to see Cats, my first Broadway Musical during a school trip to New York City. I remember recounting the story and playing the soundtrack to my Dad. He wasn't too impressed with Cats; he much preferred the classics of the 1950's and 1960's and the rock operas of the 60's and 70's to the Andrew Lloyd Weber and Boublil/Schonberg era of the 1980's.
"Just listen to it, Dad," I would say, and he would retort with, "Nah. I like my music."
Since my Dad has a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Southern Mississippi, he knows "good and bad" music, or rather, should I say, can appreciate "fine music," though he may not care for said music. Growing up, I was exposed to all kinds of music from Willie Nelson to the Beatles to Bach to Stevie Wonder. My Dad once played a duet with Doc Severinsen when the famous Tonight Show musician was a guest artist at Southern Miss back in the late 1960's. He had seen John Fred and his Playboys perform their signature "Judy in Disguise with Glasses" at a Southern Miss Frat party.
The man was on a fast track to becoming a professional musician until a masterclass ( or a private lesson...I can't remember which ) with another Guest Artist whose name I cannot remember derailed his plans. Said "Artist" told my Dad he'd be a great educator, but would never be a performer. The next day, my Dad took Political Science as a minor. After graduating, he was the band director for Stringer High School in Stringer, Mississippi, for two years. Soon after that, he joined the Army, served in Germany, then chose not to re-enlist because he had decided to attend Ole Miss Law School.
Despite all of this, my Dad never lost his love for music. He often remarks how he always wanted "the Good Lord to make him a honky-tonk piano player, but He (God) made him a cook instead." My Dad's cooking adventures are a story for another time. Today's post concentrates on the music.
Back to the original story....
I was so excited at having discovered this new medium of music, I became engulfed with it. We went to see Les Miserables when it came to Mobile, Alabama; Phantom of the Opera in New Orleans, Sunset Boulevard and Disney's Beauty and the Beast in London, Starlight Express in Gulfport, Mississippi, and on and on and on...
I kept trying to get my Dad interested, and though he went to see Phantom, he was not overly impressed. He enjoyed the musical, but I could tell the magic just wasn't there for him.
We took a trip to New York together in the fall of 1999. Southern Miss was playing West Point, and the University had arranged a package deal for Alumni and Fans at a decent rate. Since I had no desire to attend the game, I went to see Rent during the day and got tickets for the two of us to see Miss Saigon that evening. I figured Dad would enjoy it, since it was military related and I would enjoy it, as I had memorized the soundtrack some months before.
Rent was like nothing I had seen before. It was trashy, loud, obnoxious and modern. I enjoyed the music but didn't really care for the subject matter. Plus, I have to admit with no disrespect to the late Jonathan Larsen, I was more of a fan of the original "La Boheme" story. While I left the theater entertained, I felt something was lacking, but I didn't know what exactly.
Dad was nearly too late to make Miss Saigon. The bus from West Point had been delayed and I literally stood outside with a cab waiting to take us to the theater. Dad jumped off the bus and directly into the cab, wearing Southern Miss garb and all. We made it to the will-call window with five minutes to spare.
Those next few hours were magical...not just because of the show, but because I would look over every so often and see how much my Dad was enjoying the musical. After it was over, he raved and raved about how much he had enjoyed it. He was quoting lines, he bought a shirt, he even bought gifts for friends that bore the Miss Saigon logo.
Many years later, I have now come to an understanding of just what that moment meant. It was more than me and my Dad enjoying a musical together. It was a recognition of common interest in not only music and much more of simply old meets new. That musical, for my Dad, hearkened back to a time when musicals were still grand and over-the-top....to a time before the rock opera....possibly even back to his time performing in the Southern Miss Wind Ensemble.
No one wants to feel their tastes and interests are obsolete. I can still remember when stores sold LP's, however, most people of this generation don't even know what an LP is, and they've never even owned a cassette player. I still have problems figuring out how to work my iPod, whereas kids ten, fifteen and twenty years younger than me are designing applications and programs for their iPhone.
I'm starting to understand a bit of why my Dad wasn't so impressed with my music. It didn't mean my music was of a lesser quality than his...no, not in the least. It was a silent mourning of years past, of the inevitable anti-hero named change; so necessary, yet so unsettling.
I know nothing of new Broadway. I've not seen a "new" show in over ten years. I've heard samples from Wicked and was not immediately drawn in to the music, though that doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy the show if I saw it. I remember feeling defeated when Cats and Les Miserables closed on Broadway, yet somehow optimistic that Phantom is still running. I don't know pop stars and I'm not up to date on the latest bands, although I'm not completely in the dark.
I hold tight to these "things past" because I can relate to them. They are more than just musical numbers and shows...they're memories. Both good and bad, they represent my memories, and by keeping in touch with these things, I always remember where I came from and what made me who I am today.
One day, my daughter, will have her own music and will be the one saying, "Mom...it's good...just listen..."
I can't wait.