(Above: Mom showing me how the phonograph works, circa 1971.)
My parents turn seventy this week. To be precise, my father does: my mother passed away before turning 59. In my family, you either live a very full life or a very short one. My grandmother (Dad’s mom) also has a birthday today, and is 94. My mom’s father – the grandfather I never met – died of a heart attack at 49. (As 48 approaches for me in the spring, this fact is not lost on me, and I should probably cut back on the cheese a bit just to be safe.)
To say that I got my appreciation for music from my parents wouldn’t be stating it strongly enough, except that I got it in different ways. My mother was an excellent pianist. There was always music in our home. In my earliest years she stayed home with me before, as with most households in the 70s, she went back to work outside the home. I remember quite a bit of Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary being played on the Magnavox phonograph in the photo. While my father didn’t play any instruments, his knowledge of pop music was encyclopedic. He was the one who would put the oldies show on the radio on Saturday night and name titles and artists – the game that I now play – as soon as the songs started. As I got older, I’d stay up late and tape songs off of that show – first on WFYR and then on WCLR – to build my music collection. From a programming standpoint, I guess I am more Dad than Mom. (Mom once became frustrated with me when I protested the family watching The Sound Of Music for the umpteenth time. “There’s more to music than the Bee Gees and ‘Y.M.C.A.,'” she said rather angrily. Years later, when I was employed by WYSY playing those very songs for $17 an hour, I laughed that there was apparently also more to music than “Do Re Mi.”)
I’ve mentioned in other posts about inheriting my parents’ records when they moved on to 8-tracks in the 70s. While they played Barry Manilow, Billy Joel, and – if it was a day to rock out – Wings Over America, I retreated to my room and spun vinyl. One of the albums I liberated was Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends, which I still have (of course). The song “Old Friends” always struck me, because of the line in the title of this piece. Seventy was old. I had great-grandparents in their seventies. Now that I am closing in on 50 (in a few years, anyway), and as of this morning have parents who are 70, it’s not so old anymore, is it?
See if you think it’s terribly strange. You can hear the song by clicking here.