Sounds of Music

Throughout the 1950s, most Saturday nights our family gathered in front of our TV to watch “The Hit Parade, “a popular show sponsored by Lucky Strike cigarettes. Their cast of talented singers (my favorite being Gisèle MacKenzie) sang the top seven songs of the week. And of course the entire nation was talking about Elvis Presley, after his three hip-gyrating appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” In my junior high years, the world was divided into two camps: Elvis or Pat Boone lovers. I secretly enjoyed both, but one had to be careful in revealing such indecisiveness.
And yes, I saw the first appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. I couldn’t comprehend all the shouting; we could barely hear their lyrics. I loved many of their early songs, but lost enthusiasm for their acid rock era of the late 60s and 70s. Truth is my popular musical development ended about 1970. Of course there were exceptions, like Simon & Garfunkel, Olivia Newton John, and John Denver. We were so busy with work and raising families to listen to much music during the 70s and 80s, and hard rock and hip hop had absolutely no appeal.
 An Aside – I was one of the first Ohio teachers certified to teach psychology and sociology. I thoroughly loved teaching both subjects. Although they were both elective courses, 93% of the Ottawa Hills High School graduates had taken my psychology class. I was teaching about life and using their daily experiences to explore the topics of great personal interest. For my sociology midterm exam, I played four Simon & Garfunkel songs (including “Sounds of Silence”) and invited students to analyze the lyrics applying the concepts they had studied.

While in high school I became fascinated by Marianne Faithful, a British singer with long blonde hair and a mesmerizing voice. Her 1964 debut album, simply titled Marianne Faithful, was the first 33-rpm record I ever purchased. I wore it out listening to “As Tears Go By” (the first song written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger) and “What Have They Done To The Rain.” Both songs are still on my iTunes playlist!

duke-of-earlIn 1962 Gene Chandler’s “Duke of Earl” became my song. I’d stroll through the halls of Kalida High singing, “As I walk though this world nothing can beat the Duke of Earl….. Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl!” Everyone in town knew this was Ron’s song. Yep, it’s still on my playlist too.

Long blonde hair on women was the rage in the mid 60s. Long-haired, blond Mary Travis of Peter, Paul, and Mary, also intrigued me. But my secret passion during my sophomore year was a fellow student named Gloria. I was severely intrigued by her – and her long blonde hair. I saw her almost daily in the cafeteria. For a couple months, I dreamed of her day and night! But I never met her or even said hello! I was still pretty innocent (in many ways) and definitely didn’t have the courage to ever initiate a conversation. Plus she was in her junior year — no chance!gloria

It didn’t help that the Shadows of Knight released their hit song, “Gloria” that year. The lyrics never mentioned her hair, but I was certain it had to be long and blonde. How shallow could a guy be! Wonder what ever happened to Gloria? Don’t really want to know. But in the end, I did find my blonde – sort of.

My music appreciation did expand in later years. Jan and I are both enthusiastic bluegrass fans, and we are blessed to live in the midst of bluegrass heaven. There are dozens of bluegrass concerts and jam sessions within 60 miles every month. Two local bands, Steep Canyon Rangers (sometimes accompanied by Steve Martin) and Balsam Range, have won many of the top bluegrass awards.

Ironically, my absolute favorite song is Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. Many years ago I began collecting various renditions of this marvelous piece. One of my favorites is on steel drums. If I have trouble sleeping I play, Michael Maxwell’s soothing album “The Elegance of Pachelbel.” In my active career, I conducted 100s of workshops for a broad array of audiences. I usually included some variation of the Canon somewhere in the program, often with an appropriate slideshow.

Some of my professional musician friends, wryly refer to it as the “Dreaded Pachebel’s Canon.” I think they view it as somewhat simplistic and not sufficiently challenging, and probably over-requested.