When they were young, my daughters would listen to music because I put it on the car radio, or the CD player, or on the TV. They were subjected to my playing the piano or guitar and had no choice. As they got a older they began to make requests for songs, and I recall the times when my older girl would nag me to play certain songs over and over. And over and over.
Now my younger daughter gripes about songs I play while we ride in the car. Both kids gently mock my husband’s classic rock choices. They frequently have no idea what song I’m playing because they are plugged into their own worlds of music. Sometimes they split the ear buds and listen together, but it isn’t my choice.
We have some overlap of favorite bands and songs, and occasionally I am surprised to hear that they do like some classic rock song airing on the kitchen radio. But too often listening to music is a segmented activity, as if we are just commuters in the same car, plugged into our own musical adventures.
So on the occasions when we do listen together to music, a selected song, some Broadway musical soundtrack, I feel a tug of nostalgia. And I relish the occasion to bond with the budding music critics who hang out in the back seat of my car.
This past summer, my girls and I managed to enjoy some of the same music, and even discuss it in depth. I took my younger girl to see a matinee of “The King and I,” a revival featuring Kelly O’Hara. I had never actually seen this classic show but I was familiar with most of the songs. Michelle had heard from a camp counselor that this was a good show. And we both enjoyed the performance greatly. For weeks afterward we spoke of the music, as well as the acting, sets and dancing. But it was the music that we delved into, raving about “Getting to Know You” and “I Whistle a Happy Tune.” I was surprised and pleased that Michelle appreciated these songs so much.
We also went to see a theatrical production that featured Beatles songs. I realized they had familiarity with the biggest hits of the Beatles, but some songs in the show were more obscure tunes. We talked a lot about some of the songs, which ones we liked the most and why (“Help!” and “Hey Jude” were among these), which we did not care for as much. And in the months following the show we saw, when a Beatles song has played on the local oldies station, I have alerted the girls and they really do take off their ear buds, so we can listen together.
Granted, listening to music can be a highly personal activity at times. But it is also communal. It is fun to listen to a song together. It is undeniably fun to sing together to a song, and we don’t do enough of that, at least in my opinion.
And it’s even fun to listen to a song just to irritate other people; one day my girls and I drove through a nearby neighborhood and I told them that if I blasted from the radio Lynyrd Skynyrd’s live version of “Free Bird” then we could watch pedestrians scurry away. We laughed hysterically when we saw this actually worked with a few people. We even talk about and still giggle.