Monday, January 24, 2011

Music My Dad Shared With Me

A lot of fathers and sons connect over sporting events or favorite teams. Unfortunately, sports never resonated with me (beyond loafing on the couch for a couple of hours, eating snacks!) What we did connect over was music, movies and books. Dad passed on to me his love for the esoteric, eclectic and out of the ordinary. 

In this post, I'd like to share a few songs Dad opened my eyes to.

Dad was a life long fan of Opera and Classical music. Before you skip over this video, take a quick peak at opera hottie Julie Migenes singing "La Habanera" from the movie version of Georges Bizet's Carmen. This is from one of my Dad's favorite operas, and one of mine too.

Long before the Doors recorded "The Alabama Song" it was a well known tune on my parents hi-fi, in the basement of our old house on 91st Street. A fan of the post modern German operas by Kurt Weill and Berthold Brecht, Dad took a fancy to this song he thought was ludicrous in a funny kind of way.

Rather than revisit the Doors version, which most people know, here is David Bowie's which is much closer to the original:

While we're visiting the works of Weill and Brecht, let's hear the original "Mack the Knife" or (as it was originally known)"Die Moritat Von Mackie Messer" Here is a literal translation....note how much darker the original was, than Bobby Darin or Louis Armstong's American version:

And the shark, he’s got teeth
And he keeps them in his face,
And MacHeath, he’s got a knife,
But not in such an obvious place.

On a beautiful blue Sunday
Lies a dead man on the beach.
And a person goes around the corner
Whom they call Mack the Knife.

And Schmul Meyer still is missing,
And such a great, rich man,
And Mack the Knife has his money.
No one can prove anything on him.

Jenny Fowler was found
With a knife in her breast,
And on the waterfront goes Mack the Knife,
Who knows nothing about anything.

Where is Alfons Glite, the chauffeur?
Does it come to the light of day?
Who could ever have known?
Mack doesn’t know.

And the big fire in Soho—
Seven children and an old man.
In the crowd is Mack the Knife,
Whom no one questions and who knows nothing.

And the child bride on her wedding night,
Whose name everyone knows,
Woke up and was raped.
Mack, what was your price?

And fish, they disappear
But to the sorrow of being eaten.
Someone appoints an end to the shark,
But the shark knows nothing of it.

And he can’t remember himself
And no one can recognize him.
For a shark is not a shark
When no one cam prove anything.

My first exposure to Jimi Hendrix was from my dad, who back in the early 70's was NOT a countercultural type, up to date on hard rock music trends, but rather as an open minded eclectic who had seen the movie "Woodstock" at the University of Oklahoma, where his employer, The Post Office had sent him to study computers. I'd fallen asleep in front of the set, when Dad woke me up to see Jimi on a late night rock show. He told me "Watch this guy, Robbie. He's going to play guitar with his teeth and then set his guitar on fire." I thought Dad was yanking my chain, but sure enough, that's exactly what the guy did. From that moment on, I was a fan of Jimi Hendrix and hard rock:

The only person Dad was more impressed with in the Woodstock movie than Hendrix was Richie Havens. He liked the way he played guitar and how one guy with an acoustic guitar could mesmerize a million or so people all at the same time. In 1972, when my folks gave me my first eight track player, there were tapes by both Jimi an Richie there for me:

Dad was a big fan of Buddy Holly, and particularly this song, "Everyday." He was drafted and sent to Germany less than six months after marrying my Mom, and this song, specifically, is one that became anthemic with him, as everyday, his return home came a little closer:

Dad was also a big fan of French chanteuse Edith Piaf. In the year before his stroke, he and I went to the Manor Square Movie House to see the biopic "La Vie En Rose" about Edith Piaf. I'm not sure if it was during his time in Europe in the 50's with the Army, or prior to that that he became a fan of her music, but her music was some of his favorite, right up to the end.

Being of Scotish heritage, Dad was always a fan of bagpipe music, and the song that sticks out most in my memory is "Scotland the Brave" performed here by The Pipes & Drums of The Royal Tank Regiment:

A group that Dad and I saw in concert three times is Riders In The Sky, a modern group of virtuoso musicians re-creating some of the goofiest Cowboy Movie music from the 30's and 40's.

Lastly, here is the Gene Autry version of the classic, "I'm Heading for the Last Round Up" a song Dad once said he wanted played at his funeral. Given contemporary Catholic liturgical norms being what they are, I doubt that's in the repertoire of his home parish, but here it is for our listening pleasure, as my Dad heads for the last round up: