Seven Music Lessons I'm Passing Down the Family Tree

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My oldest daughter arrived yesterday with my two grandsons, ages 1 and 3.

That's right. I'm a music-blogging grandpa. If you've ever read any of my past rambling, you may remember that I'm still wrangling kids as well (five kids total, three in the house). That means I've got myself seven descendants. Not bad for a wee pup of 48, eh?

As timing would have it, I promised my editor that I'd start writing again this week. God forbid I would have thought that through. So I sat there at Kiwanis Park and watched the kids play this morning, mildly lamenting my failure, and the fact that I'd soon have to sequester myself from these amazing little beings to write.

Then I had a realization that cheered me up. This week I'll write about music for them.

Is Music Really Such a Big Deal, Gramps?

It might sound silly to you, but like all things with my kids, I take this very seriously. Because a father (and grandfather) has a responsibility to teach his kids about the important things in life -- like music.

I realize that most people don't put music on their "teach your children well" top 10 list.

This particular patriarch does.

We're talking music here. The ever-present art form that has dominated my life. The one that has put food in my mouth since I got out of college, and in theirs since they showed up. It takes me and my little soul to a place where very few things take me.

Without further ado, here are seven "music lessons" I'm hoping to impart upon my descendants.

Gather 'Round Kids While the Old Man Talks Music

Quick list qualifier: You can bet I'll recommend specific artists and albums to all my descendants until the day I die, but this is a list of important generalities.

1. Like what you like in spite of what others say. It's sounds easy, but it's not. Society puts pressure on people, especially kids, to conform. This holds true with music. Do your best to maintain your own path. If you like it, then listen with joy. If they don't like it, fuck 'em.

2. Don't forget about the album. I realize digital delivery is slowly and surely eroding the concept of the album, but I urge you to make it a point to listen to music in album form, at least once in a while. If you find an artist you love, there's really nothing like listening to a group of songs, in a certain order, released at a certain time in that artist's life.

3. Try all types of music. The more you allow yourself to expand the scope of your listening, the more unbelievable music you will discover. Go backwards in time. Try other countries and cultures. Move to related genres. Most of all, never stop your search. It's a great big wonderful world full of beautiful sounds.

4. A little background really helps the experience, so do a little research. Once you know you like the sound of an artist, use your nearest digital device (who knows what that will be) and access the massive amount of information about said artist . . . or song, or album. Clapton's "Layla" sounds even better when you know the backstory.

5. Support the artist. These days, you simply do not have to pay a cent to listen to music. Digital music just can't be controlled. (With the caveat that anything is possible), I can't imagine that's going to change a whole lot in the future. So please don't forget that a creative human being (if you are listening to real music) makes all this wonderful stuff, and he or she deserves to make a living doing so. I'm not going to preach specifics, but find a way to "pay" tribute to the artists. If you aren't going to pay for the music directly, go see a live show. Buy a T-shirt from the website. Find a way.

6. Isolate yourself with some headphones and feel it in your soul. I don't mean some crappy pair of earbuds. I mean some real, take-you-away-from-the-bullshit headphones. There's simply no better way to take in the music. You hear the lyrics. You hear the specific instruments. You feel it throughout your body and soul.

7. Listen for the messages. Don't forget, the great artists are pouring out their soul for you. They've got a lifetime of learning and feeling that you don't have, and they are putting it out there for you. Sometimes it's a form of poetry, which says can say a lot of things that ordinary conversational speech just can't convey. Sometimes the message is totally in your face. Sometimes the message isn't the words at all. There won't always be a message, but if you are following your musical bliss, then you'll find some amazing ones.

There it is, a musical message for my little puppies. Hopefully, they'll heed the advice of the family Record Store Geek, and enjoy the music.

If so, this column will be one of the best lessons I'll ever pass on.

See also: Music Parenting 101: The "Two Albums Before Bed" Rule.

Steve Wiley is Up on the Sun's resident Record Store Geek and Jackalope Ranch's Parent Hood.

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