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yellow ledbetter

By the time my sons were in their teenage years, my musical tastes were pretty much settled. What the family listened to in the car and on the home stereo was controlled by me. The volume, however, was controlled by my wife. The boys really didn’t have much of a choice; like what I liked or wear ear plugs. One of them once told me—it could have been an insincere suck up—he wished he could have grown up in my era because of the music. That made me feel good, but what they were listening to behind their bedroom doors was totally foreign and unknown to me. And listen to it they did; every night. How they did their homework with that noise playing was beyond me. Occasionally they would invite me in to sample a song or two, but I was stubborn and refused to be drawn in to the dark side.

One day on my way to work I had an urge to listen to another station; meaning my car radio was tuned to only one channel, 97.1, the local Classic Rock station. Classic rock was growing old—both literally and figuratively—and I felt there just had to be something else to listen to. Something new I could call my own. I adjusted the channel to a station I knew the boys preferred and proceeded to settle in and see what would come of it. Seemingly out of nowhere I heard a guitar riff at the beginning of a song I had never heard. It was beautiful. At first it reminded me of a Jimi Hendrix tune I may have heard once, but when the singer entered the song, I knew it was something from a different era. Besides the guitar, the singer’s voice was unique and haunting and it drew me into the song. I found myself in another place and wasn’t paying attention to anything going on around me—which isn’t smart when driving down the highway.

And then, in the middle of the song, the lead singer stopped singing and said to his guitar player, “Make me cry”. The guitar solo that followed—rated in the top 100 of all time—did indeed bring a lump to my throat. It was gorgeous and emotional—as intended—and I became totally lost. I had goose bumps and thought; The boys have to hear this. Have a listen here.  Unfortunately when I got home and told them I had discovered a new song, I missed a couple of details; the name of the song and the name of the band. It took a few days of selective channel surfing before I finally obtained the needed information.

That night I called both of them to my younger son’s room and announced, “Boys, I heard this new song on the radio and it’s awesome. You have to hear it.” I was proud of myself for my discovery, but when they asked me the song’s name I stuttered, “Yellow…Yellow something. But it’s great.” They looked perplexed and then my oldest son said, “Was it Yellow Ledbetter?” My voice raised an octave and I said, “That’s it!” His next words unintentionally deflated my balloon, “Yeah, that’s a good one. Pearl Jam. Thanks Dad.” With that they both returned to their homework.

I may not have opened up their world, but their world opened mine. From that day on I was listening to all kinds of music; no longer sixties and seventies era rock and roll exclusively. I “discovered” Sound Garden, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I still listen to songs from my youth—it’s fun to visit the past and not live there—but now I do much more channel surfing and I think some of the newer groups are great; The Black Keys, The Civil Wars, Adele, Sam Smith, Jack White, Lenny Kravitz, Mumford and Sons, and a host of others yet to be heard. Oh, and if you’re flying down the highway and a song comes on with an opening guitar riff that sounds like a slow, bluesy Jimi Hendrix tune, but then you hear the melodious voice of Eddie Vedder, pull over to the side of the road. You’ll have just enough time for the song to reach the point where Eddie says, “Make me cry”. I strongly recommend you turn it up high and grab the Kleenex.