CCR for my father

When I was a little girl, I idolized my dad. I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be  6 feet tall just like him. I wanted to be an astronomer just like him. I wanted to get my PhD and be called Dr, (you guessed it) just like him. And in my six-year-old mind all of this was more than possible, it was inevitable. Obviously, things didn’t quite work out the way I’d imagined. For starters I’m only 5’2″ and at age 30, it’s pretty unlikely I’m hiding one last growth spurt. For another thing, I tried that whole science thing and the closest I ever got to being an astronomer was assisting an astronomy professor teach a gen ed course during my undergrad days. As for that PhD… well, that might still happen one day, but it won’t be for science. And it certainly won’t be on my dime. But I digress.

Where was I? Oh yeah. I was a fan of my dad from the word go. The fact that he wasn’t around to make me take a nap every afternoon (something I hated as a child) may have had something to do with my favoritism. It wasn’t fair, but well, little kids are biased. Go figure. As I got older though and started to figure out who I was and what I liked, the list of things I had in common with my dad seemed to get shorter. Don’t get me wrong, we had (and still have) a great relationship, with only a few of the usual issues faced by a father and his teenage daughter–in our case it was math homework and driving lessons. Poor Dad. Dealing with a teary-eyed daughter was sometimes hard, especially when trying to explain algebra or teach how to parallel park a car…

But music was not something we bonded on until my late teens. My father mainly listens to NPR or classical music. There’s nothing wrong with either choice, but for a Beatles-loving, rock-obsessed teenager, music was an area where it was sometimes hard for us to find common ground. I wasn’t a fan of his music and (predictably) he thought I listened to my music too loudly.

Side story: Blasting music was  something I picked up from my mother… or so I thought. Every year around Christmas, she digs out her Mannheim Steamroller albums and sets out to see if she can make all the windows in the house rattle. My dad grumbles and usually goes outside to put up lights, while my mother chuckles wickedly and proceeds to have a grand old-time inside. They do this routine every year, but when I was old enough to start borrowing the car I do seem to recall a time or two when I feared I might burst an eardrum to Beethoven simply by turning on his car.

It was probably around my junior or senior year that Dad and I finally found some musical common ground. As I’ve mentioned before, I went through a very big classic rock stage . It lasted for several years and for a while there I completely lost track of contemporary music. It was also around this time that my mother discovered the used CD racks at the local used book/music/movie/everything store and began bringing home bands that she and my dad listened to B.K. (“Before Kids”). Well, you must imagine my surprise when one birthday she gave him a copy of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s greatest hits. I remember thinking to myself, “Hey! I listen to them! What could Dad possibly want with them?”

Sometimes I have to laugh at how silly I was then, even as an all-knowing teenager. Maybe especially as a teenager. Despite my tendency to roam through my parents’ vinyl collection as a young kid, I’d basically always assumed they belonged to my mom. It had never occurred to me that my father had ever listened to anything besides Bach and Mozart. Like every self-absorbed teenager, the idea of my father having a full and varied life before I came along never occurred to me. Yet here was evidence of rock music he liked. It was a novel experience, let me tell you.  Suddenly, I could talk about to my father about music. It wasn’t exactly a watershed moment. But it stands out in my memory.

So in honor of my dad’s birthday this week, here is your daily dose of CCR!

CCR always amuses me to no end because they cultivated this down home, good old boy, Southern swamp rock image, but they were really from Northern California! Most of their albums were recorded in a place called Cosmo’s Factory in Berkeley, CA. And lead singer John Fogerty sometimes pronounced words with something akin to a New Jersey accent. Just goes to show what an image (and the focus on an image) can sometimes do. This is not to say that CCR’s music wasn’t amazing. It was tightly crafted, raucous, and addictive. They’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a good reason, folks.

This first video is the iconic Proud Mary, a.k.a. Rollin on a River. If you think you’ve never heard CCR, I can assure you that you have heard this one. Here they are performing on the Johnny Cash Show, probably in 1969. Warning, Fogerty apparently could not lip-synch for the life of him. I looked at lots of videos, there isn’t a good one on YouTube right now. I checked!

The second video is a psychedelic little master piece. I don’t know who made it, maybe it was a student piece? Maybe it was just the 1970s? It does look like the band might actually have been involved though. 1970 was a pretty swinging time, so you never know. Either way, the song is beautiful and certainly worth a listen.

Happy Birthday, Dad!!!

How do you say goodbye?

A recent parting of the way has gotten me thinking about songs of grief and songs of goodbye. Despite my constant obsession with music, and my musings here about the uses and meanings of music in our lives, I have never had a song specifically for someone who died before. After the recent loss of a (second) loved childhood pet, one that affected me more than I had expected, a song immediately jumped to mind. It was one I hadn’t heard for quite some time, but the poignancy of it (and the memories it brought to the surface) was almost enough to make me cry all by itself.

It was shortly after this that I realized what a first this was for me. I started going back over all the deaths that had touched my life, trying to think of songs associated with those people. But nothing came to mind. In most times of grief, music has left me alone with a sharp and marked silence. This is true of other sad experiences like break-ups, both romantic and plutonic. Suddenly every song I hear is hollow; just doesn’t ring true. Or worse it is a constant reminder of what has been lost and I can’t stand to listen to it. This is the first time that a song has bridged that gap, not only reminding but consoling. And as such, it is worthy of documenting.

The song in question is Cinnamon Girl from Neil Young’s 1969 album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. The goodbye is for Cinnamon, my cat. Our cat really. She was an equal opportunity kind of cat. If you were human and had the ability to feed her, she’d yell at you until you went in the back room and did her bidding. Didn’t matter who you were or if you even knew what she wanted. A sweet and lovable cat at times, Cinnamon was more roommate than pet, as I found out during undergrad when I moved into her domain. I had given up my old bedroom in favor of a private entrance, some more privacy, and my mother’s dreams of having a sewing room. It just so happened that this was the room Cinnamon had claimed for herself. I quickly discovered that living in close quarters with this cat was.. well… interesting. And often noisy. Mostly I remember  not being able to move my legs in the night without kicking her, having commandeered her own spot of the bed. And yelling at her. Cinnamon was a champion debater and always had to have the last word. Unless you gave in and gave her what she wanted, she’d keep bugging you with a shrill meow every step you took.

But she was still a sweet girl and in time we struck a truce of sorts. Despite moving out several years ago, she still occupies a soft spot in my heart. She had been sick for a while, and may have realized that it was time to go. She passed in her sleep on the old couch in her room at the age of about 16, right about the time my dad started contemplating taking her to the vet. She hated the vet and I am glad she was spared one last visit. She had a good life for a cat and she will be missed. Her connection to this song is mainly through her name and the fact that I would sing it to her sometimes. But there were a few lines that kept repeating over and over in my head last week as I dealt with the news she had passed:

“I wanna live with a Cinnamon girl

I could be happy the rest of my life with a Cinnamon girl.

A dreamer of picture, I run in the night

You see us together chasing the moonlight.

My Cinnamon girl.”

This song has been covered many times and by a wide variety of artists, from Smashing Pumpkins, to Type O Negative, to Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (of the Bangles). Here it is in the original form.

Do you have a song that reminds you of someone now gone?