I'm about to turn 60, and if my parents were alive today I'd tell them that I finally get them -- or at least one aspect of their lives. It wasn't my father's fondness for white loafers without socks or my mother's penchant for forgetting to remove the Hydrox box from the oven before turning it on (double baked cookies were a staple in our family).
I'm referring to their music and the gulf that existed between what I and they listened to and prized.
This all came about because suddenly I've become the same musical fogie in my daughter's eyes that my parents were in mine. It wasn't always this way. When Lizzie was four, my wife and I would pack her in the car on the way to a cross-country race with the Ramones blasting on the stereo to fire up our legs. For years, we'd hear her singing, "I Wanna Be 'Sezzaded' in the back seat, and when I played our special John Fogerty song we'd dance together in mutual delight.
But then somehow she turned 15. "You don't know Marina and the Diamonds?"
"You don't like Lana Del Rey?"
Suddenly, it's 1970, and I've got Tommy blasting on my $50 stereo, and my parents are screaming "Turn that down! How can you listen to that stuff?"
"It's a rock opera by the Who, Ma, how can you not like this?"
Now, let me just say what you're probably thinking: you can't equate Lana Del Rey with the Who or Ed Sheeran with The Beatles or One Direction (Lizzie hates them, but I'll use them as an example anyway) with the Stones. Fact is, you can't. The music of that generation was special. When I think of 1969 alone, it's just overwhelming to think of who was at or near their primes: the Beatles, Stones, Who, the Band, Joplin, Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, the Motown acts, the Dead, Airplane, S&G, CSN, CCR, the Cowsills (just testing to see if you're still reading this). My God.
But the thing is this: no matter how good it was, to a 15-year-old it is still was our music, not hers and she just has no interest. Was I any different? Nope. Sinatra, Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, they sucked! Nat King Cole? You've got to be kidding! The Mills Brothers? Don't make me laugh!
Oh, was I insufferable. At least Lizzie is nice about it, but consider this: the Beatles made their debut on Ed Sullivan over 50 years ago. When I was 15, the equivalent breakthrough would have been Paul Whiteman on the radio in 1920.
And I have to admit, my parents could occasionally show some tolerance, probably more than I show. They took us to see "Help" and "Hard Days Night." They sat through Woodstock, the movie (although my father kept referring to Ten Years After as "Ten Long Years). And in 1973, my Dad grew sideburns and liked to do the white-man's lip bite while dancing to "Tie a Yellow Ribbon." That's about as far as he got though.
Me, I've learned to love Sinatra and big band music (spent tonight playing "Choo Choo Choo Boogie on my ukulele -- hell I play the ukulele). One of the highlights of my journalism career was harmonizing "Paper Doll" with my friend Lenny Del Genio, the guy who shot Moe Green in "The Godfather." If only I had it in me to ask my parents to sit down with me in front of our record player and put on their favorite records. Who knows, they might have interrupted their golf games to play some of them for me.
Their record pile did inadvertently change my life though. Among their records were two "I Can Hear it Now" lps by Edward R. Murrow. Each track was a major news story of the thirties to the the Fifties. I was fascinated by the track about the Hiss-Chambers case. "One of these two men was the most convincing, calculating and cool liar in the history of Washington hearings." Thanks, Mom and Dad. Fifty years and 100,000 FBI files later, I've figured out the answer. The book should be done in a couple of years.
And Lizzie, I'm thrilled that she loves her music, and occasionally, even have a cross-generational breakthrough. A few weeks ago, she told me how she loves really old music, and had I ever heard of the Talking Heads. Then she pulled out her ipad and cued up Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over." You know this song, she asked me incredulously?
Now, I don't want to exaggerate our progress. That same night, she scrolled through her ipad and said to my wife, "This band's after your time, so you probably don't know them." It was Nirvana.
She thinks Elvis Presley was weird, and when I suggest she listen to "The Weight" or "Satisfaction" she just rolls her eyes. You can't win them all, or at least not yet. I still have hope though. In the meantime, O'l Blue Eyes is cued up while I think of my folks.
I will never, ever wear the white shoes though.