When you are a certified music junkie like I am, you tend to weave music in and out of life. It influences every area of your existence.
Does that mean music is part of my parental philosophy? Of course. It's one of my greatest tools. In fact, I find that music can do a lot better job of getting a point across than the Old Man lecturing, or pontificating, or rambling about the way things ought to be.
The trick is, you have to find the right songs...because like Charles Barkley, rock and roll musicians ain't meant to be role models. If you are going to use rock music, you have to make sure the artist/lyric/song fits your philosophy as a parent.
Stick around, and the ol' Parent Hood will enlighten you with some of the wisdom of rock and roll.
You're Taking Advice from Those Scruffy Characters?
Luckily for me, my lifetime of Record Store Geekdom has introduced me with a headful of music-philosophy to share with my kids... all five of the little rascals (ages 11 to 30.)
Here's how I do it.
I'll play the song, and then when the lyric comes up, I'll try to subtlety use the opportunity to explain what the songwriter was saying, and how it fits in to my views, or guesses, or clueless feelings about life.
There's an endless amount of songs I can use to make my points, but I'll start with four of my favorites (click the song title for a link to the song's lyrics):
In the phenomenal intro track to Wait's Heart of Saturday Night, Tom encourages his girl to come out and have some fun. It's about having a good attitude, making the best of your surroundings, and putting a "new coat of paint on this lonesome old town."
The line I tend to focus on is this: "Fishin' for a good time starts with throwin' in your line."
I hope my kids will get off the fuckin' couch and go experience life. Put down the remote, or the joystick, take their faces out of their phones and experience the glorious moment all around them...whatever their surroundings might be.
I don't care whether they dig travel, arts, sports, science, whatever. I don't even care if they win or lose (of course, I enjoy it more when they win). As long as they get in the game and play.
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That's right, I'm using Supertramp, the group John Cusack's character railed on in High Fidelity. I told you I wasn't a typical record store geek (like I said in Five Statements Guaranteed to Annoy a Music Elitist, I make elitists nuts). Besides, Cusack's character was wrong.
How can any progressive, agnostic parent not want his kids to think about the words and concepts behind Rick Davies and Roger Hodgeson's wonderful cautionary tale about socialization and conformity? I want them to question the dominant paradigm. Even if it's me.
When they reach adulthood, if my kids can still be blown away by nature, and the magical mysteries of the universe, then I assure you I will be happy about it. If they understand and stray away from the bullshit pressure and prestige of the machine - and understand that the machine won't like it when they do - then I'll be a proud papa.
Last week I worked up elitists by saying that Paul wrote more good songs without John than John did without Paul. I'll stand by that one.
But you've got to give it up to John on this magnificent song. He had the guts to suggest that we do away with religion, country, and possessions - to challenge the core Christian notions of heaven and hell - and the musical ability to put it all together in such a simple and sweet way that he didn't take any shit publicly for it... in 1971! (The song was actually charted by both Andy Williams and Ray Conniff within a year of it's release.)
It's utopian for sure, but you can bet your ass I have talked, and will continue to talk, about it's high ideals with my kids. There's nothing wrong with imagining great things - in fact it's where all life-changing ideas start - and I'd rather teach them to imagine a place without wars, religions, and countries than blindly indoctrinate them into the patriotic, faith-based ignorance that American culture tends to perpetrate.
John was a dreamer. He's not the only one. I hope my kids will join him.
Technically, the philosophy I'm advocating here isn't a lyric in this song (it's like a little studio comment). OK, if you must know, I didn't even first hear the philosophy from John Lee Hooker, and it wasn't even this song. I first heard it from George Thorogood in his popular live version of John Lee's "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" (which is sort of a live amalgamation of both Hooker songs).
So what is it Record Store Geek...you want your kids to drink lots of alcohol? So they can really catch a buzz while they're illogically imagining putting a new coat of paint on society?
Oh, settle down. Of course not.
I would never advocate drinking more than two different kinds of alcohol in one session. Two's the limit for alcohol types (not drinks, of course.)
But seriously, my Parent Hood philosophy for this song is solely based on one line:
"I know, everybody funny. Now you funny too."
It's one of my all-time favorite "lyrics" because it reminds me that everybody is flawed. Everybody's crazy. Nobody's perfect. No matter how things may appear. That's what makes this whole wacky world so interesting.
I want my kids to remember that. They're not the only weirdos out there. There's no such thing as normal, so just be who you are.
Because everybody funny. Now you funny too.
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Til next week... thanks for reading.