Music echoes through time — but now I hear dead people

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and bottles of bubbles … During our more-than 2000-mile trip, that Arianna Grande pop hit was on some sort of radio perpetual motion machine, playing in every state, every county — occasionally interrupted by a song from a performer named Post Malone.
Listening to these stations pleased Daughter immensely, especially when she was fed a steady diet of NPR and Grateful Dead when I was in charge of the soundtrack of our travel to Delaware/Pennsylvania and back (996 miles door-to-door, one way).

It was spring break and I was hoping to recover whatever possessions I’d left behind when I beat a hasty retreat from Phoenixville. That last U-Haul load was a chaotic experience bordering on a bad dream. Daughter and I drove home through torrential rains, and water got into the U-Haul trailer and ruined the mattress and box spring (yes, we were partners on that trip too).

Pd: Reproduction Art Print featuring the painting Grateful Dead Logo by Pg Reproductions

Daughter begged off this time, saying she didn’t want to give up her Spring Break unless she could see her Pennsylvania friends. I had planned a quick turnaround, also wanting to enjoy Spring Break at our new home in Florida.
There was more at stake here. I was going to stay at my Mother’s home — and my Mother has sorely missed Daughter since we moved South. I made Daughter a deal: I would extend the stay and help ferry her around to see her Pa. friends, if she’d come with me. Besides, I explained, she’s become a reliable co-pilot and navigator.
One thing I’ve learned from sharing long car rides: Daughter loves to sing along, and quickly memorizes the words to today’s hits.
Flashback to 1969. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Bubble gum. The Archies. The Partridge Family. I knew the words to every song. My friends and I took turns buying the latest 45 rpm records, and we’d play them over and over until we’d memorized the lyrics, and then some. Mention 45 rpm records to today’s tweens, and you’ll get either a blank stare or a sneer. (Meaningless fact: We recently marked the 70th anniversary of the introduction of 45 records.)
Within a year or two, my tastes evolved. I found the Beatles. Johnny Cash — Folsom and San Quentin — became listening staples, with every word committed to memory. Led Zeppelin. Queen, David Bowie, Lou Reed and others, finally landing me square in the lap of the Grateful Dead.
Then a thought occurred to me. For the most part, I listen to dead people. Many of them are no longer here, but their music is just as vital as it was during their lifetime.
It brought me to an uncomfortable place. Sure, they were dead, but many fans still were able to relate to fallen stars as they did while the performers lived. Bowie will always snarl through “Cracked Actor” on David Live, just as he did when it was recorded in 1974 at the Tower Theater. It’s like old film stars, who will always look the same. Ray and Dave Davies wrote a song about it– “Celluloid Heroes.”
What was I doing that could carry my impact into the future, after my death? What lasting statement was I leaving behind?
My thoughts came full circle, back to Arianna Grande, Post Malone and their pop music comrades. (By the way, we have watched and loved “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.) When she grows up, gets older, would my daughter still remember how she felt about their music? Would she still know every word?
Will she also be listening to dead people? Will she listen to any of the dead people her Father listened to? Will she find her Father’s voice in these words?

6 thoughts on “Music echoes through time — but now I hear dead people

  1. Thanks for your words Charlie! Your daughter is still 5 years old, right? Fond memories of listening to “Dead” music with you and your family! Take care, my friend and please extend my warm thoughts with your family..peace, love and yellow balloons, Murph

    1. yo. Brian. just found your note. I’m living in West Melbourne, FL.
      Teaching 1st and 2nd grade reading at Imagine Schools at West Melbourne.
      Hope you’re doing well.
      Still working for Ed?

      1. HI—yes, I’m still at PBP…almost everyone is working from home due to the pandemic..that’s good your teaching again…..take care, brian

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