Archive for Music


I think that most parents have a special little song they sing with their children.  Maybe it’s a tune they made up using their baby’s name, maybe it’s a favorite soothing lullaby,  maybe it’s a silly song they learned as a child themselves.  I know that my husband,  Shiloh, and I had a very special song that we sang to our oldest son, Solon.  We started before he was even born and we continued well into the preschool days.  It was always the same song that would soothe his boo-boos and help him fall asleep and ease the pain of long car trips……….a tender, heartfelt lullaby:

“The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers.

See, nothing says “Parents of The Year” like a lullaby that includes a dozen references to illegal gambling, glorifies whiskey-drinking,  and fondly recalls someone dying in his sleep.  Aaaaah, the golden memories of childhood………..

It all started in a moment of pre-natal, hormone-induced weepiness.  I was reading a baby book one night (like every night the previous 16 months) when I realized, in a rush of horror,  that my husband was not  bonding with our fetus!  He couldn’t know the beauty and awe of growing a brand-new human being inside yourself!  He didn’t get to share the kicks and hiccups that were an endearing reminder of the bond I shared with our unborn child.  He didn’t even get to experience the vomiting and heartburn that made the whole thing so magical.  So, I turned to him in tears and loudly cried, “You never sing to the baby!”  At which point, I dissolved into ugly sobs of accusation.

Shiloh sighed and gave me a loving look pf patient bewilderment.  His smile said “I love you, crazy woman.” but his eyes said “I have no idea what’s happening right now.”  Anyway, he weighed his options, took a deep breath, leaned in towards my huge belly, and started singing…………”On a warm summer’s eve, on a train bound for nowhere………”  And he proceeded to sing the entire song, verses, chorus, and all.  It was the most beautiful thing I ever heard.  You have to remember, Shiloh is the least musical person I have ever met.  I don’t even know how we ended up together.  He can’t clap the beat to a song even if I hold his hands and clap them for him.  He constantly leaves my car radio tuned to a country station.  And he knows the words to exactly 3 songs:

1. The Gambler

2. Amen (which technically only has one word)

3.  Silent Night

(He thinks he knows the words to “On Wisconsin” too, but you really only need the first four words to this song, the rest is just fist-pumping.)

So, the fact that he choose The Gambler to be Solon’s theme song is no real commentary on his feelings about impending parenthood.  It was the most appropriate song he knows.  And it’s beautiful.  We sang it to Solon each night before he was born and we sang it at the hospital on his first day of life.  I rocked him to sleep hundreds of times with that song.  I could feel his tense little body melt into my arms every time I started singing.  I would sing the song at the top of my lungs as he screamed in his car seat on long trips.  The Gambler was HIS song.  We tried using it on Gage a few years later, but it backfired.  Cuz every time I tried to sing Gage to sleep with it,  Solon would join in loudly from the other room and scare the baby.  So Gage got a rotating succession of Indigo Girls tunes for his lullaby.

Anyway………..the boys got older.  My hormones let up.  Naptime become a non-battle.  Gradually The Gambler faded out of use.

But earlier this summer, as my extended family sat around the campfire at the lake house, Shiloh started singing The Gambler.  Loudly.  It was totally out of the blue.  (Actually, it was out of a woodsmoke and beer-induced spiral descent into well-deserved vacation mode).  The adults all smiled, remembering nostalgically those baby days.  The days of walking the floors with a feverish baby or rocking a little one to sleep when the rest of the world was already sleeping.  But, by the time Shiloh had reached the first chorus that night by the campfire, Solon had joined in!  I think he surprised himself by knowing all the words to a song he doesn’t ever remember hearing.  It triggered something buried deep in his 10-year-old memory.  He had that same bewildered look on his face of “I have no idea what’s happening right now” that Shiloh gave me all those years back.

Shiloh and Solon went on lie together in the hammock and sing the song at least 20 more times at the top of their lungs.  I’m sure all the lake neighbors appreciated it.  I don’t know because I went to bed after the second round.  But the fact that I could sleep with all that howling going on speaks to the power of The Gambler………


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albums and 8 tracks

Shiny circle of mystery.

My kids don’t know what a CD is.

At piano lessons yesterday, their teacher Mr. Joe gave me a couple copies of his new CD.  (Well, I guess it’s his new “album”, but let’s not even get started on what an “album” is…….).  My kids were mystified.  I guess they had never seen music presented in square, shrink-wrapped form.  I told them that it was a copy of Joe’s “new CD”.  They tore off the wrapping to verify that, indeed, there WAS a disc in there.  Then they got excited.  They love music, especially Mr. Joe’s music.

“Does it have Melody?  What about Only Love?” they eagerly asked, rattling off the names of some of their favorite Joe tracks (again, let’s not even get started on “tracks”…..).  I explained that, no, it didn’t have any of their old favorite songs, that it was a new CD.  I got blank stares.  I realized that my kids don’t understand a CD as a source of new music.  In their world, music flows from internet to computer to iPod to ears.  To them, CDs are things we occasionally create using music we already have.  You don’t make CDs out of new music.  You make them out of old music.  So why would you make a Joe CD without “Only Love“?

So, I explained the old-school music industry to them.  Where musicians make a whole batch of songs, some really good and some not as good and then put them all on a CD roughly once every 2 years and ask you to trust them and buy the whole CD.  And if you want your friends to have one of the good songs too, they ask you to please buy another whole CD.  Now, I’m digital-music-savvy.  I have one entire second mortgage on my house just to finance my iTunes habit.  But the old-school music industry still works on me sometimes.  It worked for me with Mr. Joe’s new album.  I trust him.  I love his music.  I have a friend who would love his music.  So, I bought 2 copies of his CD, songs-unheard.  And I was not disappointed.  Check out Sly Joe and the Smooth Operators.  You won’t be disappointed either!

The boys and I listened to the CD in the car all the way home from piano lessons.  We even took the long way so we could listen to one song twice (and so we could enjoy an extra 4 minutes of air-conditioning, but that’s a whole other post).  The boys loved the new CD but they seemed bummed when we got home.  They were disappointed that all of Mr. Joe’s new music was trapped on the CD in our car.  They really like listening to music on their iPods.

I see a lesson in ripping in their future……..

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Just a drop of water in an endless sea……..

My boys are not signed up for lots of activities this summer.  No swimming lessons, no soccer, no camp.  We like to have a mellow schedule, without rushing around.  We go to the pool and we go on bike rides and we play Legos.  I actually think there is value in boredom.  I like to let my kids figure out how to entertain themselves sometimes.  But, we have continued with music lessons through the summer.  This is one activity that is important to us.

My oldest son, Solon, has been taking piano lessons for a couple years from Mr. Joe at Island Music.  We LOVE Mr. Joe.  He’s patient and funny and he’s great with kids.  Also, he’s an amazing musician and songwriter.  I got to hear Joe play piano the other night with a jazz trio.  Dang.  I forgot how good he was.  Even when he’s not playing Row Row Row Your Boat.  Check him out here.

The thing Solon loves most about his piano lessons is that he gets to pick which songs he plays.  He loves choosing songs that “speak” to him.  So far he has mastered Indiana Jones, Star Wars, The Final Countdown, and Dust In The Wind.  (I’ll spare you the favor of attaching any audio files here.  Once you hear these songs, you will never ever ever get them out of your head. Ever.)  He has also mastered Fur Elise and Turkish March.  But those songs didn’t “speak” to him and were quickly forgotten.

Gage had been doing drum lessons.  He liked it, but as more of an “activity” than a music lesson.  I saw him showing interest in piano and starting to pick out tunes on the keyboard.  And to fight with his brother about who’s turn it was to play the big piano.  So, Gage started lessons this month with Mr. Joe.  I don’t drill my boys on scales and notes and exercises every day.  Of course, Mr. Joe works on this with them each week and we (semi) diligently complete our assignments.  In the car on the way to lessons every Wednesday.  But, mostly I just want my kids to love music.  I love music.  It’s one of the most important things in my life.  I want to expose my kids to great music and let them explore the styles they like and be proud of making music themselves.  The techniques and the theory will come.  If the love is there.  Love of music leads to appreciation of music which leads to a desire to learn music.  You can’t force it.

So Gage is plunking away on the piano.  He and Mr. Joe picked their first song:  Yankee Doodle.  Right now, it’s all about building up his skills to tackle his dream song.  The one that “speaks” to him.  The one that inspired him to pick up piano:  “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic.

It’s all about the love.

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