Father’s Day – Music and Memory
Because memory association is what I do, on this Father’s Day, here are five songs that always bring my dad immediately to mind:
Harry Chapin, “Taxi” –
I remember my parents talking about the news when Chapin died, but more vividly I remember being in the car with my Dad, and this being a song for which he specifically turned the radio up and told me he liked it. After the song’s narrator talks about his old flame telling him to keep the change from the “twenty dollars for a two-fifty fare” come the lines:
Well another man might have been angry/ And another man might have been hurt,
But another man never would have let her go. / I stashed the bill in my shirt.
At this point Dad gave me one of those eyebrow-raised “that’s life” half-grins and said, “Yep – Harry’s no fool.”
Sheena Easton, “Telefone” –
I remember when Dad bought Best Kept Secret on cassette. It was the first current pop album I remember him buying, and I seem to think he told me it was one of the albums they listened to at the hospital where he worked as an anesthetist. It’s funny how many fragments of the other songs on the album popped into my head when I read through the track listing for the first time in at least 25 years, but “Telefone” is by far the most prominent in memory. (I think Dad had a little thing for the early/mid-1980s Sheena – neatly balanced , of course, by mom’s little crush on Harrison Ford.)
Lionel Richie, “Hello” –
Because the song came on the radio once in the car, and for some reason, Dad began responding out loud to the lyrics:
“I’ve been alone with you inside my mind …”
“And in my dreams I’ve kissed your lips a thousand times.”
“Lionel!” (This was preceded by little gasp of faux-prudish horror and sent me over the edge into laughter.)
My wife never got to meet my Dad, but I told her this story a long time ago, and I’m not sure we’ve ever heard “Hello” and failed to insert Dad’s comments.
The Beach Boys, “Sloop John B” –
Well, I mean, it’s got my name – which is also my Dad’s brother’s name – right there in the title, which Dad always pointed out, and it’s a Beach Boys song from arguably their best and most influential album, so there’s that, too. My parents graduated from high school in 1965, so the The Beach Boys were a big part of the music I heard when I was little, and they later became the first musical act I saw perform live when I went with my parents to Blossom Music Center in my early teens.
Don McClean, “American Pie” –
I remember hearing this song for the first time because we were in the car and Dad made a point of telling me all about how long the song was, and how parts of it were about Buddy Holly’s death and other parts Don McLean had just explained as having no meaning at all.
The song stuck: When I was old enough to drive, I went to the mall and bought a $2 cassette version of it from a bargain bin at Camelot Music (look it up, youngsters) and was disgusted to find it included the cut-in-half “part one” and “part two” single versions. And when I took to hanging index cards with quotes and song lyrics on the inside of my high school locker door, verses from “American Pie” were there.
It’s still a favorite – an absolute gotta-turn-it-up in the car, and if I’m alone, crank it to eleven, sing along, get those adrenaline shivers and remember my Dad.