Ben calls just about every day, during his commute to a job he’s had for almost two years. It’s a five-minute commute so our conversations are short, but that’s OK. We love the touches.
“I was just talking to Jackie,” he says. “She’s going to a Morgan Wallen concert in New Hampshire this weekend. I’m so jealous.”
“Who?” I ask, exposing my lack of country music knowledge.
“Morgan Wallen. He’s one of my favorite artists. You should listen to some of his music Dad.”
I’m getting to know both of our children through the music they suggest. Music the currency of these pandemic days.
“Dad, I’ve got a song for you,” Nicole says while bounding into the kitchen for a first cup of hot tea. “Play this one… Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”
“Jim Croce,” I say with a knowing smile. “He died young, in a plane crash.” Nicole favors the classics, like Billie Joel, Elton John and the Beatles, or maybe Ben and Nicole are both suggesting tracks they know I’ll like. “Dad, you’re gonna love this one.”
Together, Nicole and I listen to Only the Good Die Young, me butchering the words, Nicole wishing she’d never suggested the song.
“It’s too early for that,” she seems to be saying, just wanting to hear something other than the obscure WPKN’s playlists I favor. Easy Money, Pump it Up, and Uncle Lloyd three tracks we listen to together before Nicole’s gone again.
“You need to send me a few of your favorites,” I ask Ben the next time he calls.
“Favorite tracks by Morgan Wallen.”
“Wasted on You, Sand in My Boots, and Broadway Girls,” he says. I’ve listened to Wallen these last couple of days, feeling an immediate emotional attachment to the themes of love and longing we’ve all been through.
“Love those songs, but I couldn’t find Broadway Girls,” I say.
“That’s because it’s with Lil Durk, look him up,” he says, which I do, and find a fusion of country and hip-hop, Ben’s two favorite genres brought together in one track, he too suggesting music he thinks I will like.
“There are few others I found,” I say, excited to share my discoveries within Wallen’s playlist.
“What are they?” Ben asks.
“Cover Me Up, Chasin’ You, and of course Whiskey Glasses,” I say, citing Wallen’s biggest hit.
“Those are great,” Ben agrees.
Did I ask my parents to listen to the music I grew up on? The answer is no, because we didn’t ask, we just blasted music all through the house until our parents couldn’t take it any longer.
“Why do you listen to the same song over and over again, and so loud?” My Mom’s most common refrain as I tried learning guitar chords by ear. On a rare occasion though, she’d say, “play that one again.” Songs where you can discern the words, by bands like Loggins & Messina or Crosby Still Nash & Young. My father wasn’t home enough to have suffered the wall of noise we generated with The Who and Johnny Winter, though it was Dad who came home with our first Beatles record. A forty-five. For that, we are forever grateful, a day to mark the beginning of our rock and roll journey most recently celebrated when Mary and I attend a Paul McCartney concert at Fenway.
“Dad, I can’t believe I missed that,” Nicole laments every other day now.
“You had walking pneumonia,” I remind her. Mary and I are making it up to Nicole with tickets to Elton’s John’s Last Tour at Gillette Stadium later in the month.
“Elton John!” Nicole shouts now and again. “Are we close to the stage?”
We’re not, but that’s OK. Sir Elton knows how to put on a show, the three of us looking forward to singing some of a generation’s biggest anthems. Hits like I’m Still Standing, Rocket Man and Tiny Dancer.
“I love Saturday Night’s for Fighting,” Mary says, thinking of her love of dancing. “How many times did we dance to those songs?”
“A quadrillion,” I think to myself, grateful for any and all who introduce us to new music. Who share our love of pop. Who just want to stand up and dance the night away.
Love to you Ben and Nicole, for suggesting songs we might enjoy together. Love to you Mom and Dad, for enduring a generation of loud, LOUD music. Love to you Mary, for attending concerts you aren’t sure you’re gonna like.
May we sing and dance until the rocket man comes home.