I am not a writer or a blogger and I really have nothing to do with this aside from reading my brothers’ entries with the hope that every day NKOTB will be mentioned. However, the first anniversary of our father’s unexpected passing is about to fall upon us, so my brothers invited me to join them in discussing some songs for our father. I was not part of the original conversation about “funeral songs”, etc., but there are definitely songs that come to mind whenever I think of my father.
For a man who was almost 100% deaf, our father loved music. He attended countless musicals, high school band and chorus concerts, dance recitals and performances of my older brother’s rock/alternative/not-sure-how-to-describe-it band. Before it was me performing, and we’d go to see my older brother’s shows, my dad would frequently ask me questions about what was going on. One particular incident that comes to mind is a concert we attended where my brother’s woman du jour was playing the flute, and he asked me, “what the hell is that girl doing?” He couldn’t hear the high-pitched sounds of the woodwind instrument and thought she was just dancing around holding a metal stick to her face.
Another memory that reminds me of his love of music is when he asked me to get him some classical music for Christmas. He didn’t specify a composer or concerto, he just said “classical music.” Since he was difficult to buy gifts for, I was happy for the inspiration and bought him a CD of a random compilation of music from a variety of composers.
Even though he couldn’t hear most music, whenever my father would drive into the driveway, no matter where I was standing, whether it was indoors or outdoors, I could almost always hear his car before I could see it—he would turn up the Oldies station incredibly loudly so that he could try to hear or at the very least feel the music while he was driving. When he got an iPod a few years ago, he asked my brothers and me to fill it with music, and we gave him everything from the Beatles to Bob Marley.
One Beatles song that he wanted to ensure was on his iPod was “Hey Jude.” The Younger specified that song as one that he remembers when thinking about my dad, but I will note at this point that the song plays a big role in my thoughts of my father—though these days, I can’t seem to listen to the whole song without crying. But I digress—onto my songs.
This is obviously an old and traditional Christmas carol, one that my father sang as a child, with his father singing it before him and so on and so forth. At the church where he walked me down the aisle the day I got married, (the same church where we celebrated his life with a packed service of family, friends and distant acquaintances) they saing “Silent Night” as the second-to-last hymn every Christmas Eve. While the song plays, the members of the congregation all hold small candles to light each other’s candles, until everyone in the church is holding a lit candle.
When we attended Christmas Eve service at this church, my father always sang along for at least part of “Silent Night” and it’s the one Christmas carol that really got me this year. My husband and I attended a service at a local Lutheran church in our small western Colorado town this year; and this congregation also shared candlelight during “Silent Night.” It was difficult to handle emotionally, but I felt as if somehow, during that song, on that evening, my father was with me.
No idea who originally sang it, but it was covered by greats such as Johnny Cash, Creeence Clearwater Revival, the Beach Boys, and Elton John. The first time I ever heard it was on a cold Christmas morning in the back woods of Maine. That year I had received the African-American American Girl doll named Addy, and upon unwrapping the gift, my father immediately grabbed her away from me and began bouncing her on his knee, singing “When I was a little bitty baby my momma rocked me in the cradle…” (My father didn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body; but he was far from politically correct.) I was confused, mortified and probably launched into one of my famous fits from that era. However, his actions that morning set the stage for a world of giggles for myself, my family and a childhood friend, Brittany, who I still consider to be a family member.
“Summer in the City”—The Lovin’ Spoonful
When I was a young child, my family spent a lot more time together as a family than we did as my brothers and I slowly grew older. We would travel by car to places like Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, or Boston. Sometimes we would not spend the extra night in a hotel and we’d drive home with the Oldies station playing on the car radio. I remember hearing “Summer in the City” several times on the radio on those car trips, especially during the night and I remember a specific instance of it playing while we rolled through a toll booth. Hearing the song reminds me of the “good times”, before my brothers and I really knew that there was stress and negativity in life, before we realized that our family wouldn’t always be together as one unit.
“Spirit in the Sky”—Norman Greenbaum
This is one song I wish had been played during the church service on the day we gathered to remember my father’s life. Not only does it “fit” a funeral situation, but it reminds me a lot of my father. Particularly, it reminds me of my trips back and forth from Maine to Vermont during my college years, but I also remember him listening to the song when I was young. A college friend made me a mixed CD during the winter of 2003, back when mixed CDs were really something special, and “Spirit in the Sky” was one of the songs on that CD. My father and I listened to that particular CD and the song Spirit in the Sky several times during our travels. Because my father enjoyed church and read daily scriptures, he especially enjoyed the line from the song, “Gotta have a friend in Jesus” and always managed to sing that line with an extra decibel of volume. Whether he could hear the music or hear himself sing, my father always enjoyed that particular song.