by: Leslie Fenton, Executive Producer

When you have a child, you are handed an entirely new set of responsibilities.

Yes, you have to feed, clothe and shelter them.  But that’s just the beginning.  You have to teach them kindness and compassion.  Tolerance and judgment.  How to love and be loved. And of course, just as crucially… they have to not only know and appreciate, but have to LOVE good music.  Yes, I know that “good music” is somewhat subjective, but…is it really? In my humble opinion, I say to that, nope.  Good is good.

With this in mind, their dad and I embarked upon this mission with gusto.  We played the Beatles.  Bought onesies with Rolling Stone logos.  Made playlists. Took them to Lollapalooza, New Orleans Jazz Fest, Ravinia.  Always told them a little bit about who they were listening to, even when they stared at us blankly with their binky in mouth.  Outlaw country, classic rock, punk rock, goth, hip hop.  Waylon Jennings, Eminem, Elvis. Regina Spektor, Tori Amos, Fleetwood Mac. Their dad shared jazz, Elvis Costello and the Jam.  Their grandmother played classical music on the piano. We had it covered.

There were some stumbles along the way.  The time I had my 2-year old son on my shoulders, butted up against a stage at Lolla at 2:00 pm to see a local band.  They slithered onto stage, shielded themselves against the sun and kicked things off by screaming, “Welcome to Chicago MOTHERF*CKERS!!!”  Then there was the time when my 6-year old daughter asked me to stop playing The Cure because she didn’t like Robert Smith’s voice. (WHAAATT???)

But there were bigger wins. My mostly silent 18-month old son, strapped in his car seat, hearing the very first strum on “Whiskey River,” suddenly shouting as if he were a contestant on Name That Tune, “Willie Nelson everybody!”  Another time, I realized there was a good chance that the same boy, then 8 years old, had perhaps never really heard Led Zeppelin. I put it on in the car and watched in the rearview mirror as he experienced “Kashmir” for the VERY FIRST TIME.  I’ll never forget his face. Quiet, serious and somewhat transfixed as he stared out the window for the whole 8 minutes and 37 seconds.  There are countless days when I hear my daughter in her room singing every word to any given song by Beyoncé, Nina Simone, George Jones, Heart, Tyler the Creator, BØRNS and inexplicably, “I Like Big Butts” by Sir Mix a Lot.

It delights me to say that my kids’ musical knowledge has surpassed me. They never fail to amaze me with their love of so many kinds of music, and their respect for so many different kinds of artists.  True, I may have screwed up some mom things along the way.  I’ve missed Lacrosse games.  I can’t really cook.  I sometimes yell.  I probably don’t listen enough.  But I have given them at least this one gift.  I can say to them, “Kids, when the world seems too crazy, too divisive, perhaps too cruel, you can always fall back on the universal language you know so well.  Roll down the windows.  Crank the Pink Floyd. Or Prince. Or Pitbull.  And just sing… ‘All we are saying… is give peace a chance…’”

 

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