Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Don't Worry, Be Happy

I love music. I grew up in a musical home. My mother sang and played guitar and we often had sing-alongs at home. My brother and I learned to harmonize at a very early age, sang together as children, and still do today.

A very frustrating time for me was a ten year or so period from 1968 through most of the 1970's. I was trying to build several businesses at the time and was perpetually broke. Payroll and accounts payable always came first. As a business owner with responsibilities, I was, as an uncle of mine so succinctly put it, "sucking a hind teat."

What does that have to do with music? Lots. Chances are that if I didn't hear a song on the radio at that time, I would never hear it at all. Purchasing a record album (remember those?) was usually out of the question. The five or six dollars or whatever they cost was too important to waste on frippery like entertainment. One of my most prized possessions from the era was the George Harrison "All Things Must Pass" collection, a birthday gift from my first wife. The purchase probably put a large dent in the grocery budget for that week.

Fast forward to today. I have now have a collection that probably approaches 10,000 individual songs. Very little of that is current, say from later than the 1990's. I enjoy music from way, way back, like Fanny Brice, Al Jolson, Ted Lewis, Eddie Cantor, and The Paul Whiteman Orchestra. I love The Beatles, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and even groups like Teenage Head. I am also still catching up on what I missed in the 1970's. I have revisited groups like Led Zeppelin (grossly overrated, except for "Stairway to Heaven") and The Who. Based on what got radio play in the 1970's, The Who never impressed me. Now that I can immerse myself in their music, I realize that I overlooked a group with a lot of talent. Peter Townsend was and is a gifted song-writer. Roger Daltry was uniquely suited to sing the music of The Who. Their songs are much more intricate than I remembered, with excellent drum, keyboard, and synthesizer work.

But, surprise, this post is not really just about music either. It is about letting things slip by, about not noticing what is going on around you. We are often so preoccupied with survival that we forget to live. I am not suggesting that we all fall prey to the instant gratification addiction that plagues our society, but I am suggesting that when something is deferred or put aside for awhile, that it be explored and enjoyed at a later time. I get a great deal of pleasure now, as I work at my computer, listening to music I missed in years past. Queued up on my computer's MP3 player right now are songs by Madeleine Peyroux (A current blues singer) and Denise LaSalle (a blues singer of often bawdy material, from back in the 1970's and 1980's.) After that, who knows? The point is I am playing catch-up, enjoying things I had no time or money for thirty-some-odd years ago. I don't regret making the sacrifices I had to make at the time. I did what I thought had to be done. Now, that I am able, I am determined to smell those clich├ęd roses, to enjoy myself.

What did you forego in your past, as you concentrated on career, business or family? Maybe now you can finally set aside some time just for yourself, to do something that pleases you. I am trying to do that and I recommend it to you. Life is short. You can't listen to music when your hearing has gone, play piano when your fingers are crippled with arthritis, or write your memoirs when you can no longer remember what happened before lunch.

And, finally, one more musical reference: "Don't Worry, Be Happy."


  1. You said it, man.
    It's great to make a living. It's even better to make a life while you do so.
    I feel the same way about music, my self-imposed religious straight-jacket having separated me from a lot of it when I was a young fool.
    Now that I'm a middle-aged fool, there are a lot of the same groups and singers I'm getting to know.
    And damn, how I like Pink Floyd!

  2. Yeah... Floyd rules. Gilmour knows how to make that axe of his sing.

  3. I have been blessed to have been able to smell a lot of roses, in my life.

    Even during the two years living in a pub, slight-heavily intoxicated for every single day of those two years, I was a lunch-aide at a local elementary school and each of the faces of those children was a rose for me.

    I was born listening, tasting, noticing and I love to walk, think, discover, share and enjoy.

    But, I could have done more during my wasteful moments.

    The things that I have put on hold, due to time and money are lessons. Oee has them - singing, art, dance, soccer is on it's way, martial arts is coming up next, swimming, french...

    But, I didn't have lessons as a child and I promised myself I'd always take lessons of whatever I liked when I got older.

    I tried to learn to skateboard when I was 28. I learned to play the guitar a bit when I was 27. I took ball-room and salsa dancing when I was 27.

    But, I've let my own interests slide a little. I don't read recreationally as much as I should. And, I still want to take watercolor, malaysian cooking, theology and snowboarding.

    And, thank-you, Atavist; I think I'll put a little more serious thought into those things.

    I also wanted to help more than I do. But, Oee and I are working on that, now - she is such a great inspiration and teacher. I will post about that later.

    Pink Floyd is so amazing, eh?

    Yesterday, a met a man listening to 'Gatton' - a guitarist, I had not yet had the pleasure to hear.

    Jazzy-Blues - quite amazing, from what I've heard so far.

    btw.. I love vinyl. Nothing else sounds quite like it.

  4. Well, as an incurable old hippie, I don't feel like I missed out on too much because building and acquiring was never very important to me. The things I missed out on were a result of my own internal crap instead of anything external. Music has always been important though and I went through the various phases we all go through, growing up. :)



  5. Penny: I get tired just thinking about how much you cram into a day. The energy of the young is what the geezer generation misses the most, I suppose.

    Chani: Material things are never what is all-important. Doing what we love and maintaining our own integrity is what really counts. Reading your blog tells me that the latter is what is your focus and I respect and admire that.