Music connects us in more ways than one and exploring it is one of the a main themes on Nashville. When Sarah Salitan-Thiell, a devoted Nashie, began writing this post what started as an examination of the way music is passed on from generation to generation on Nashville, turned into a beautiful and poignant post about the way this idea is present in her own life. Can you relate?
“One of my favorite memories from childhood is thinking about all of our family car trips to visit family. Those car trips in giant gas guzzling station wagons that my parents owned in the early 1980’s, stay with me to this day. Those trips are also where I learned about music from my father. (True confession time: he hated country music!)
My dad was a Baby Boomer, and grew up in the greater NYC area, in the shadow of the Apollo Theater. He told a funny story about skipping school to go see a show there once, but that’s another story for another day. So, I was raised on The Temptations and Four Tops, Ben E. King, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
I don’t remember the day Elvis died, though I’m sure a lot of you do. And, perhaps you remember when John Lennon was shot? Nope. The day the music died in my house was when Marvin Gaye was killed. If the record didn’t’ have the blue Motown Records label, it wasn’t worth playing, as far as my dad was concerned.
Now that I look back on it this might have been the final straw in my parents’ contentious marriage. My mother tried to raise me on James Taylor & Carly Simon with a healthy dose of Barbra Streisand, but was often overruled.
My father was a working professional and didn’t have a lot of time for leisure. So, my musical schooling took place, for the most part, in the car on long road trips. When we’d lose our local “Golden Oldies” station, he’d know just where to look on the dial to pick up the next one. We’d never want for musical entertainment, he made sure of that.
His voice was terrible, and he never played an instrument, except for banging on the steering wheel to keep the beat. But, he sang with joy and passion, and never had an ounce of self-consciousness, at least not in the presence of his kids!
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Now I’m a grown woman and have kids of my own. Our family, too, takes occasional road trips and when I watch my own kids sitting in the backseat, singing their hearts out, it makes me feel like there is a connection between our three generations.
Somehow, despite time and space, life and death, my kids are getting the same kind of education that I got (albeit in a more fuel efficient SUV), even though the musical genre is vastly different.
One of our family’s latest road trips was to Boston to see the Nashville Tour and it was an emotional one for me.
We knew the tour wouldn’t come to our small market, but we were up for a little adventure as we drove the three hours to see the stars of our favorite show, kids buckled into their seats, excited to hear the songs performed live that we have all learned the words to. What better way to get in the mood than to listen our favorite cast as we made our way east?
As we drove, I looked back in my mirror, to see my kids singing, not missing a beat or a word. They each have their favorites. Dear daughter loves “My Song” (that’s another matter entirely, it warms this feminist’s heart to hear her sing this one, embrace the lyrics, and idolize Clare Bowen). Dear Son likes any of the bro-songs; “It’s On Tonight” and “If I Drink This Beer” are his current favorites.
Yes, it’s cute when little kids sing songs in their small voices. And I am so, so appreciative of the fact that this 10pm drama that my kids certainly CANNOT watch has elicited all of these opportunities for fun, family-friendly entertainment while still providing a date night experience for my husband and me. Without this show, I’m not sure I would have felt moved to take my kids to the Opry last summer.
But that’s not what left me teary.
What left me teary, behind my veil of sunglasses as I drove eastward on the Massachusetts Turnpike, was thinking about my dad, now deceased, and all of those hours spent in the car with him, listening and learning about melody, harmony, and rhythm. He sang off key and thumped his hand on the steering wheel on the off-beats, but that really didn’t matter.
All of those lessons I learned about love, loss, and relationships listening to the lyrics of those classic songs, my kids were now learning by listening to these incredible songs from the Nashville soundtracks. “Believing” came on, streaming through my iPod, and a tear rolled down my cheek…”All that I once was, all that I could be, when I’ve forgotten, baby you remind me…”
It’s the way the music and the lyrics connect us; from my father, to me, and to my children.
They will never know the feeling of being safe in my dad’s car, listening to his music. But I really hope they know how it feels to be safe in my care, in my car, and to inadvertently learn these same lessons.
Without knowing it, my dad passed this down to me, and now it’s my turn, and my responsibility, to do the same. Without knowing it, my kids are present for the lessons; not only present, but seemingly excited to learn.
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I am so appreciative of the Nashville cast, their talents, the songwriters, writers, and producers, as well as the entire Nashie community. Together, you have all led me to this moment that gave me the opportunity to share my dad’s lessons with my own kids. This Nashie couldn’t’ be more excited to share them.”