Born and raised in the '70s and '80s, my ears were subjected to various different types of music in the households I frequented as a child.
Back then the era of the television variety show was still alive -- though the death rattle was quickly approaching -- and broadcast radio had yet to become the pre-programmed corporate-run homogenous load of crap that it is today.
For instance, my maternal grandmother listened to a lot of country and recorded me singing things like "Jesus Loves Me" and the like on her home stereo. Also, I heard a lot of music on the shows I liked such as Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and The Muppet Show.
One song from my childhood continues to stick out to this day about a lovely family with a young boy appropriately named Scotty. "Watching Scotty Grow" is an idyllic pop ballad written by Mac Davis, but first recorded by Bobby Goldsboro in 1970. My paternal grandparents owned a compilation album by Goldsboro commemorating his tenth anniversary as a recording artist that contained this song along with his other hits. With a sugary production that includes strings, trumpet, light percussion and background vocals, the song nearly transcends pop to easy listening. Even at a young age I knew this was a candy-coated picture of life and did not represent my upbringing. This song exemplified the vision that my parents had of my childhood and still seem to carry to this day. They tend to treat me as if I've never grown up into the man I am today; a person with my own thoughts and beliefs with the firm understanding that I am not responsible for their happiness.
However, the actual truth about my childhood is more accurately told in the classic Harry Chapin song "Cat's in the Cradle." Chapin tells the story of a self-absorbed father who ignores his son's desire to spend time with him. Using the excuse of being too busy, the father dismisses the wants and needs of his son only to feel sorry for himself when his son "grows up to be just like him" with the same busy schedule. This song perfectly exemplifies the Bruce Springsteen quote we use at the top of our page. A moral life lesson in the parenting of a child described in just over three minutes. While my parents took me to activities like sports, I received guilt trips from my father -- instead of needed encouragement and guideance -- for not practicing enough. These lectures were often given from the couch in front of the television. With his limited time after work, my dad was far more worried about keeping up the way-too-big-for-a-family-of-three house with the yard/cars/garage to be able to provide much attention. Let's just say that I spent a lot of time in my room with my records.
Luckily, during my formative years I spent a large part of time -- especially summer days -- with my paternal grandparents. They were quite social with a close-knit circle friends and an even larger array of aquaintances. They stayed busy with various activities like travel, church, bowling, crafts, chores and going to see big band concerts in the park. They took me places that my parents never did and usually had interesting stories for the trip. I was able learn about our family history and even got to spend time with my great-grandmother who I would have only seen once or twice a year otherwise. Plus, I have fond memories of listening to 78 RPM records on an old hand-cranked victrola in their basement.
Originally inspired by the caretaker of the ranch that Neil Young bought in the 1970, "Old Man" tells the story of a younger man who realizes a connection to an older man as they share similar needs. This song also seems like a possible reaction to the prevaling thought of the counter-culture generation of the late '60s to not trust anyone over the age of 30. Young's thesis hits the listener immediately starting with the opening line, "Old Man take a look at my life / I'm a lot like you were."
Part of the generation that journalist Tom Brokaw dubbed "The Greatest Generation," my grandparents were people I looked up with great reverence. I owe much of who I am as a adult to spending the quality time with them over the years. I often think of my grandfather when I hear this song even though rock 'n roll was not his preferred musical genre. Thanks Pop.