The times make
the music as
the music makes
the times, and music
makes us, as well.

What are we?
Advanced recording devices,
among other things,
able to play back
even ad jingles
from childhood TV.

It’s fashionable
to say, “memory
is not truth, but
a narrative.”

The soundtrack
of memory, though,
is layered
with feelings enough
to recreate the time.

Rodgers and Hammerstein
were the Bach and Beethoven
of our household.

I struggled with
some classical pieces
on piano, and came to like them,
but Chopin’s “Nocturne”
and Tchaikovsky’s “Concerto
in E-flat Minor” were
not part of our lives
like South Pacific
and West Side Story.

The rest of the “high art”
of my childhood: “Movin'”
by Peter, Paul and Mary;
not their other records,
just that one,
played over and over until
we wore it out.

We got Smothers Brothers
and Paul Anka records, too,
but no more life-changers,
not even Elvis, until

one day, following
a carload of girls
into Famous-Barr,
some friends and I
passed a display with
four cardboard heads bobbing
as strange chords played.
I knew somehow
we’d be hearing
that sound again.

That was the beginning
of the explosion!
Still, even Bob Dylan
remained merely a name
until one morning
shortly after I’d gotten my license
I drove to Famous-Barr again,
this time to the book department

and in browsing found
an article in Look about
the “behind-the-scenes” songwriter
who’d done PP & M’s big hit,
“Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Lord, was I out of it!
My college roommate
set me straight about Dylan
and Donovan and
a number of others,
opened my eyes and ears—
turned a key,
as must be done
in so many areas
of art and life.
It wasn’t that Dylan
“croaked like a frog,”
as Look had said;
his voice was true,
and truth
is beauty.

And that’s
about it, really: “the ’60s”
extended until
at least the mid ’70s.

I still listen to, play and sing
Leonard Cohen, Dylan, a few
songs by the Dead,
Jim Croce’s “Operator,”
“If You’re Goin’ to San Francisco”
“California Dreamin’,”
and dozens of others.

Add a little country
and The Great American Songbook,
Gershwin, Cole Porter, Kern,
Rodgers and Hart and the rest,
discovered much later,

and a golden vein
of spiritual songs,
many written by people
I’m proud to know,
another handful
from my own
pen and guitar.

Beyond that,
I’m a musical ignoramus
to this day.

However, music itself
is so rich that even
an ignoramus possesses
a Kingdom of treasure.

image: old vinyl record via Shutterstock