Thoughts on My Musical Journey

Music is what feelings sound like

Dear Dumplin,

June is Black Music Month.   As a result, I thought it would be a good time to tell you a little about the type of music I like and my relationship with music.  At the moment, you don’t want to hear any of it. You actually prefer children’s songs. I’ve played you songs and you tell me, “No Mommy, Wheels on the Bus!” As a result, I have no idea what kind of music you will enjoy.  Sometimes you will tolerate one Chrisette Michelle song called “Let’s Rock.”  Occassionally you still ask to hear “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen.  Besides that, you want kids music only.  It will be interesting to see how your musical tastes change as you get older.

If I had to guess I would say my musical journey started by going through your Mema’s record collection.  She loves Patti Labelle the best and I took her to see Miss Patti one year at Radio City Music Hall for her birthday.  In addition to Patti Labelle, your Mema loved and still loves Michael Jackson.  One of my life’s regrets is never being able to see him perform live.   But despite these two amazing artists, I have a memory of playing this one song by Cheryl Lynn over and over again.  I just loved the beat and how dramatic her voice was!

But through all of this, I can’t say that I only listed to music from black artists.  Going to a private school where I was one of two black students influenced my music selections tremendously.  I distinctly remember listening to a lot of Madonna, and your Mema being appalled that someone gave out a George Michael cassette tape as a party favor.  (Yes honey, a cassette tape.)  Now I know that I really had no idea what any of what I was listening to was about and how adult the music was.

In this private school, I swear an entire year centered around memorizing the lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel and being able to recite the lyrics on request.  Do I remember the lyrics now?  No.  Not in the least.  I’m pretty sure I made space in my mental rolodex for other things.  (Yes, that phrase is aging myself but I don’t care.)

I also remember loving this one song by Pat Benatar.

And then I moved to Georgia where I would go to school with a lot more black people.  Billy Joel and Pat Benatar would simply not do.   A love of Michael and Janet Jackson were the mere basics.  I quickly learned about New Edition, Kwame, and Kid and Play.  The funny thing was your Mema was appalled!!!  She would tell me “Go in there and read a book!”  I’m laughing hysterically as I think about it.

Six months later we were back in New York but I would not return to private school.  A public school in walking distance was the name of the game and I was in for severe culture shock!   I quickly fell in love with Mary J. Blige, Puffy (I just can’t get with the whole Diddy thing.  He’s still Puffy to me), Brandy, and Method Man.  I still love anything Brandy.  I love most 90’s girl groups including Zhané and Jade.  Here’s a classic.

I’ll tell you about what I’m listening to now in another post and explain what music means to me.





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