I am out of touch with the importance of music in my life. It used to permeate the seminal moments. I hung out with musicians in my twenties. I went to hear live music every single weekend. It was cause for entertainment and socializing. My own home was often the spot for whatever happened after the clubs closed. There was Chris and Paul, sometimes Greg, Chuck, and Shane. An occasional girlfriend came along. And sometimes the guy who was also into BMW 2002s and the then odd little Honda Civic (which was sort of like the Smart car seems now) but whose name I cannot recall. I would go to bed at 2:00 a.m. and wake up the next morning - the musicians camped out in the living room and extra bedrooms, with guitars, banjos, and mandolins carefully put to bed in their cases after all night music. In the morning, we put coffee on, made a pot of oatmeal,and ate together. Somewhere in the room, someone had a guitar in his lap, picking out a new song. It was a lovely background humming - just under the conversation at breakfast. I loved folk music. I loved the blues and it has all fizzled like a sorry love affair. I dropped music like it was nothing to me.
I remember when I first really heard country music in the mid-'70's in Garrison, Iowa. I was working for a professional theatre, The Old Creamery Theatre Company, in a town of 300 people north of Iowa City. We rehearsed all day and went to drink beer at the local bar every night. There was a guy in the company (whose name escapes me after 36 years!) who kept plugging the juke box with quarters to play country music and talk about it like he was selling something - he was so excited and knew so much. The one I still recall is Loretta Lynn's little sister, Chrystal Gale's number one hit - Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue. Then there was Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys something by Waylon Jennings - and some Willie Nelson and some real deal Hank Williams. It just grabbed me. And from that day forward, my radio was set to the country station.
Tonight I am listening to the Dixie Chicks and why they just aren't ready to make nice. I am listening to Eric Bibb's bluesey gospel about the angels singin'. And surely the single best white blues guy, Dave Von Ronk, singin' all 'bout that "cocaine runnin' all round his brain". There's Greg Brown singing my personal favorite, Ring Around the Moon from way, way back - his first album. And last, but not least, the queen of New Orleans soul, Irma Thomas, reminding me what love is all about. And I'm just sitting here in my living room - doing nothing but listening.
I wonder why I remember this now and why it is so easy for me to forget what a pleasure music can be.