This week on November 4th, my dad would have celebrated his 80th birthday.
My dad and I had a 40 year age difference. In this, my dad was a bridge to my life from once upon a time in America when life seemed so different.
One of my favorite memories of dad was in the love of music that we both shared. Of course, being born in 1930, my dad shared a love for the music of the 40’s, 50’s, and parts of the 60’s.
He wasn’t rock and roll. He was jazz. He was of the standards era.
However, I do remember the time we got a new stereo sometime around the time I was 10 that had an 8 track tape player. In this, one of the 8 track tapes he brought home was a Beach Boys album.
It was fun to see him dance at that moment. I think it might have been the only time I saw him dance.
As I got older, I always loved visiting mom and dad.
Of course, when you arrived, the local jazz station, KMHD, was always on.
Dad and I would sit there and talk about life as jazz would play in the background.
With always an ear to the music, my dad would always stop the conversation by holding up his finger when a nice b3, sax, piano, or any other smooth solo would come on.
As I think about this, I realize how much my dad truly did have his ear to the ground and alert to the best of what life had to offer.
He would hear things that normal people would not.
One of dads favorites was Erroll Garner. He would love to tell you about the incredible talent of this jazz pianist and how he had the unbelievable gift to play multiple melodies simultaneously with each hand.
Of course, when I hear Erroll play this song, I think of dad.
Another memory of dad was when I was in the 6th grade and had the opportunity to play trumpet in the honor band, which consisted of players from different schools.
It was the night of the concert and the news crews were there. As was always the case, we would bring a big boom box to each concert and record it on cassette tape.
At this particular concert, we were playing the classic, Baby Elephant Walk by Henry Mancini.
Dad, who was in charge of recording the concert was in his seat and ready.
My dad was notorious in my mind for having more rhythm than any one I knew and in most conversations, dad would find the music playing where ever it was and would tap his fingers.
Dad never played an instrument, but if he ever would have… he would have killed it!
After performing that concert, we rushed home to watch the local news to see if we were on TV and how we sounded. How surprised we were when they started the report with a close up of my dads hand clutching the cassette case tapping his finger to the music.
To this day, that is an image that will never leave me.
Sure, I love my music, too. Of course, I am a little more rock and roll then dad was and he never did understand some of the music that came out during the youth of my years. But, none the less, he always kept me grounded in the music that had something way more than most of the music of today… soul.
However, there was that rare moment when the music of my youth and the sound of his day crossed paths.
When Van Halen lead singer, David Lee Roth came out with his solo record and performed, Just a Gigolo. My dad kind of liked his voice. Matter of fact, I think it actually led to another great discussion about music and talent with him. Of course, this didn’t mean he was going to be picking up Van Halen “I” anytime soon either.
My dad passed away in 2003.
Recently, one of our favorites, Tony Bennett made a national TV appearance. At 84, he blew it out at a San Francisco Giants game and in doing so, took me back to a place that reminded me of a time long gone.
Before my dad passed away, he gave me a gift. It was the Tony Bennett Unplugged concert. It was unbelievable. But, as I watched this like a thousand times, I often pondered life after someone like Tony Bennett.
It is sad growing up as we experience the living connections to a time of music that was so special and instrumental to the talented artists of our day pass on.
When we lose these patriarchs, we lose something bigger than we may at the time realize.
For, who now will carry the torch?
For me, I will find that torch engraved in my mind and heart as dad tapping his finger to the sounds of music. But, it wasn’t just any music, it was music that moved much more than ones body… it moved their soul.
Thanks for the memories dad and thanks for passing the torch.
I hope I carry it well.