Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Miles Davis Weather

My Grandma Millie was a talented musician and poet, and one of the coolest grandmothers around. (Actually, I was blessed with two amazing grandmothers who have been great role models for me.) She had a beautiful smile and striking features that revealed her Cherokee heritage. We lived many miles apart, but whenever I visited her, we laughed and talked as if we were the closest of friends. (She often played "Margaritaville" for David!)

Grandma introduced me to the music of Billie Holliday and Frank Sinatra when I was very young. She had old 78s and 16s (vinyl records) stored upstairs in the attic and a turntable that actually played them at the proper speed. The records were scratchy, and combined with Holliday's eerie vocals, the music both frightened and intrigued me. Gritty yet melodic, haunting and hopeful, my grandma's music made me a lifelong fan.

My brother is a musician and often you can catch him playing at Poppy's Garden Cafe in McKinney. Our family is full of great singers, guitarists, pianists and percussionists, but Mick is truly gifted. (I promise I'm not biased. ;-) Our Papaw Dennis (all good Southern kids have at least one 'Papaw') sings gospel and plays guitar. Our dad played hard rock when we were kids and now prefers Nashville-style country. Mom was and still is a fan of Motown. I was influenced by the music of my childhood--punk and disco--and my teens--new wave, 'hair bands', metal, and hip-hop/rap. Later, I actually moved to Seattle during the grunge years, but that's a post for another time...My point is, my taste in music is certainly eclectic.

Like many things that affect our senses, music evokes nostalgia and carries significant meaning for me. I still listen to Holliday and Sinatra, and my Grandma Millie's face appears in my memory. "Strange Fruit" is one my favorites but "My Way" is my mantra. I remember so many moments Grandma and I shared: harvesting vegetables from her garden, climbing the big tree in her back yard, spending several days with her when Mick was born. Elvis' version of "Peace in the Valley" epitomizes Papaw's style. Grand Funk Railroad (specifically "I'm Your Captain") reminds me of those late nights when my long-haired Dad and uncles would "jam" in our basement. Anything by Foreigner or the Eagles takes me back to those days, too. But more recently, I think about Dad when I hear George Strait (who could be my dad's long-lost twin.) The soundtrack from "Dirty Dancing" always inspires me to tell my mom I miss her.

Rainy days like today deserve at least one play-through of Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue." When I hear the opening notes of "Freddie the Freeloader" I'm once again 20-something and writing under pressure, mere months away from receiving my college degree. I would listen and Davis' arrangements would somehow plow through my writer's block. Somehow, I finished that final project before graduation. Somehow, today, I must make time to give it another listen.

Question for discussion: what music is important to you and why?

1 comment:

Dusty said...

Awwwl, Christy, I'm sure you knew you could draw me out with this one. I, too, have enjoyed all of America's rich basket of music. Raised on rock-n-roll and 80's R&B. Came of age with hip-hop and emo rock. Matured with jazz and alt-country. I really hope I don't turn into a classical music patron, but I just wanted to chime in on a couple of things.

First, I absolutely agree that jazz music removes mental/creative blocks. My album of choice is Wynton Marsalis' Blue Interlude, and specifically the tune "Ballad of Sugar Cane and Sweetie Pie". I often use it to focus when faced with a particularly difficult situation.

Second, for anyone interested in expanding their musical tastes or hoping to find new artists that match their current tastes, I whole-heartedly recommend Pandora (http://www.pandora.com). This service utilizes actual musicologists to try and classify what aspects of music (rhythm, instrumentation, vocal style, etc.) appeal to you and find new artists/song that match your preferences. You just start by giving Pandora your favorite artist or song, and it will create an entire radio station around your selection. You give each song a thumbs up or thumbs down, and Pandora learns about your musical tastes.