Yes, of course I taught them to say please and thank you, how to suck through a straw and not to wipe their noses on their sleeves. There are so many things we must do to mold those young minds. It’s a huge responsibility. But I believe that the most important thing I taught them was to Name That Tune in Three Notes.
I’m writing this on George Harrison’s 70th birthday (if he were still alive), so of course I have to start with the Beatles. Well, no – I have to start with Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party,” the first record I ever bought. It was 1963. It was a 45 rpm record.
In February of 1964, the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and that was it for me. Life would never be the same. George was my favorite Beatle from the start. Most of the other girls loved Paul, but not me.
But this was not just teen idolatry. This started a lifelong obsession with popular music. My first concert, in 1964, was Herman’s Hermits and the Rolling Stones. Tickets were $3.50. I petitioned my overnight camp to let us go on a trip to see The Doors perform. That went exactly nowhere. My first boyfriend and I bonded over Bob Dylan.
We went to lots of live music shows at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia (where I grew up). In college, I spent all of my work study money on record albums and live music. In 1973, I worked in London for the summer, and came back home with a suitcase packed with the British versions of the Beatles’ albums, not available in the US.
So fast forward to the 1980s, when MOS-32 and MYS-27 were born. We listened to music in the car at all times. In 1984, we were listening to Huey Lewis and the News singing “If This Is It,” and MOS-32, who was only 3, started singing along. I was so proud.
From then on, I made it my mission to teach my kids the difference between good music and bad music, but most importantly, how to identify artists and styles of music in as few notes as possible. Motherhood offers hours of driving opportunities, and with those come musical opportunities as well. I drilled them and quizzed them until they learned Motown, British Invasion, rock and roll, folk songs, pop music, reggae, ska, Broadway musicals, movie musicals, and whatever else I deemed worthy. I taught them how horrible certain bands/musicians were (the Eagles, Rush, Michael Bolton – sorry if I have offended anyone but I am an opinionated musical snob and proud of it). I would offer them $1 million if they could name a tune or artist in 3 notes. Both kids claim I owe them each about $80 million by now – because they became experts!
As they got older, they formed their own opinions. They hated Eric Clapton. They said he was “cheesy.” Sacrilege!
How dare they call Eric “cheesy”!
But they also introduced me to bands I didn’t know: The Offspring, They Might Be Giants, Weezer, Hi-Standard. I took MOS-32 to his first live show at The Sting in New Britain in 1996. I took MYS-27 to the Warped Tour in Camden, NJ in 2001. I asked them daily, “Who is the coolest mom?” They informed me that anyone who ASKS if she is the coolest mom can never be the coolest mom.
For MOS-32’s wedding, I found a punk version of “Sunrise, Sunset” by the band Yidcore and had the disc jockey splice it into the middle of the traditional version from “Fiddler on the Roof.” So we started out doing the mother/son dance to the classic version, and then suddenly the screaming punk version came on. It was hilarious! MOS-32’s friends asked him, “Did your mom know you were going to do that?” He said, “Uh, it was her idea.”
MYS-27 unfortunately took a detour down the metal path for a while but when he found his first girlfriend, he walked around the house singing “Let’s Get It On,” by Marvin Gaye. They always come back to the classics.
We still spend lots of time sharing music and debating about which bands are good and bad. They scoff at my love of old time country music. I roll my eyes at their various atonal choices. It’s all good-natured fun and something that the three of us really care about. It’s so much fun to be able to share this bond that started when they were just little guys.