Kim in Baltimore, putting away the last of the Christmas decorations.
This morning on a television program they had a segment about 45 records. Does anyone remember those? I do and still have most of mine in a record box tucked on the shelf of my office closet. I come from a musical family. My grandparents and their siblings all played musical instruments and my grandfather and uncles even had their own music hour on the radio in the 1940’s.
Even though my parents were definitely children of the sixties, I was more encased in the generation of my grandparents. By the time I was five I could sing every verse of Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey. I knew much more about Judy Garland and Bing Crosby than Judy Collins and Bob Dylan. We watched Lawrence Welk every Saturday afternoon and listened to Nat King Cole on the radio. My grandfather and uncles would sit in our kitchen playing their banjos and guitars nearly every Saturday night. Dad never played an instrument, but loved listening to his big band records on the stereo. Music was playing day and night in our house.
My grandfather died the year I turned twelve and the weekly gatherings came to an end. We still had the radio and stereo playing constantly, but the music seemed empty. I felt hurt and alone. Listening to Fleetwood Mac and Billy Joel, though I loved their music, did nothing to improve my mood.
Dad came in one night after work and called my to the kitchen. “I have something for you,” he said and handed me a paper shopping bag. Inside was a Led Zepplin album. Now, you’ve probably figured out by now if you regularly read my post, I was an extremely sheltered child. I had heard of Led Zepplin, but doubt I could’ve named one of their songs. In my young mind this was the type of music some of the older neighborhood boys listened to in their basement while getting high.
I stood there, frozen in place, wondering what in the world my dad was thinking giving this to me. “Live a little,” he finally said, breaking the silence. I dutifully took the album up to my room and played it on my turn table. I laid across my bed with my head hanging off the side. It seemed to me the proper way to listen to Led Zepplin was with all the blood rushing to your brain. From the moment Robert Plant’s voice sang out “Hey, hey mama” I could feel the void in me that had been starved for months filling up. He was smooth and sometimes screaming and had an achy scratchiness to his voice I’d not heard before but could identify the same feelings within myself.
Dad never requested I turn my stereo down, nor did he ever roll his eyes when I mentioned Robert Plant the way he had anytime I’d wanted to talk about David Cassidy. The following summer we made our annual trek to Atlantic City. It would be our last visit there as a family. One night, while walking the boardwalk, Dad played a baseball game and won. Of all the prizes he could have chosen, he walked away with yet another Led Zepplin album, Bonzo’s Birthday. I was thrilled.
In Dad’s quiet way he helped me overcome the depression I felt after my grandfather’s death by introducing me to this music. One Zepplin album put me on the path to The Runaways, The Godfathers, Blondie, u2 and Nirvana. I have turned to them on numerous occasions over the years to dance, sing or even scream my way through both hard and happy times. My dad and Led Zepplin forever mingled in my heart.
Readers: Do you have a song or an album that helped you through a rough time?