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The Importance of Music (To Me)

Music has always played an important role in my life and although I was never a musician, per se... not for not trying... that just wasn’t meant to be. I loved music and grew up with it as my parents were into classical... and only classical music. So that was great since I really didn’t know anything else. That all pretty much changed for good on September 9, 1956. I was 10 and it was Elvis Presley’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. We watched it weekly as a family gathered around the black-and-white Crosley TV with the rabbit ears adjusted perfectly so there was only intermittent ‘scroll’. I’d seen other musical acts but nothing struck me like seeing Elvis live for the first time. I couldn’t get enough and, of course, that drove my parents nuts having to listen to it on the radio emanating from the depths of my bedroom, me locked inside, grooving... my dad called it “awful and not even music”... Wow!... from my perspective, it sure seemed like a typical response from ‘the greatest generation’.

Anyway... moving along... I managed to have a second row seat at the first Beatles appearance in San Francisco in 1964 and that really sealed the ‘musical’ deal for me. I was hooked. Saw all the groups in Golden Gate Park in the 60’s and frequented The Fillmore, Winterland, and the Avalon Ballroom on nearly any weekend. The Jefferson Airplane were my favorite and regularly played those venues. All of the major rock-and-roll groups came through SF and I saw most of them live... like Buffalo Springfield, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish, Chuck Berry, Papa John, Fats Domino, Creedence and many others. The weed flowed freely as did psychedelics... that’s all I ever got into, but anything was available.

By now music was in ingrained in my life and is woven through my story, as ‘things’ happened while music was playing... I tried to recapture those moments in my book. I love the Rolling Stones and have seen them numerous times including at Altamont. Out at sea we had about 200 tapes of virtually every rock-and-roll and country group out there at the time... and along with a ton of weed to smoke... well, it made for some interesting times. I had a huge record collection... lost a bunch of it in a divorce... another story... Managed a rock band. That’s in the book too... and, after the timeline of the book... around the late 90’s I had a rather amusing musical epiphany.

I had dragged my second wife to numerous rock concerts. We saw Springsteen (twice), The Who, Pink Floyd, Def Leppard, and others until my wife had had enough. She loved the opera and now it was her turn and that I take her to the opera. “OMG. You’ve got to be kidding!” She wasn’t! My mother got us second row, center seats to Carmen at the San Francisco Opera. We dressed to the nines and went... hotel in The City, limo and all. I was given only one request: “If you fall asleep, please don’t snore!”

I was not into opera at all and, if my wife wanted to listen to it in the house, at the volume she enjoyed, she could only do so with the headphones on. It was intolerable to me. She listened endlessly, with the headphones on and in her own world, with tears of joy running down her face as she listened to the ‘beautiful’ music and understood the usually sad and mostly tragic stories being told to opera music. I was amazed and bewildered. Anyway... we settled in to our plush velvet covered seats and at first I was amazed at the stage set and costumes, but as the music started and the opera star Jesse Norman began to sing I was mesmerized and by the end of the first act I was hooked as well as stunned at what I had missed throughout the years.

A light bulb suddenly went on and it now struck me, “like a diamond bullet” (a quote from the movie Apocalypse Now) as to why I liked opera so much. It was back to the pre-Elvis days of my childhood and that I had loved classical music back then and suddenly realized that classical music without singing was like the Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger! It only took me about 50 years to figure that out! But, at least I got it and love opera to this day... and, she’s happy to be rid of the headphones!

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