Friday, January 15, 2010

You're Breaking My Heart

As a young person, I was in the school band. 6th grade was only the recorder, but I loved it, and in Junior High, I played clarinet and traded first chair with Jody Neff on a regular basis. We are talking early 70s here.

We were good, for only being young teens, because our band director made us good. His name was Mr. Redman; a short. red-faced, and heavyset man who loved classical music and tried to instill that love into us. We went to contests and won first place many times, playing Beethoven's Eroica and other difficult music. At some point, I took up the oboe at his insistence. (Which was not a good move, because the band tunes to the oboe, and I never seemed to be in tune.)

Back then, you got little medals when you won at contest. Which you had to buy, actually, and seriously? I never had the money to buy more than just a few. It could have been because we were pretty damn poor, or maybe I couldn't bear to ask my parents for the few dollars. Life at home wasn't so great then. But I digress.

Anyway. Mr. Redman asked us one day to bring in 45s of our favorite music. We thought, Cool! Let's Share! and so we brought in our little black discs of Top 40 pop and rock and roll, which he played on a tinny little portable record player.

He proceeded to knock and ridicule each song, music by the Beatles, Mungo Jerry, Led Zeppelin, The Kinks. His point was that popular music didn't, nay couldn't, hold a candle to the Greats of The Past, such as Mozart, Brahms, Wagner. Now that was Music!

Jody then meekly offered up Simon and Garfunkel's Cecilia. After we all heard it, and sort of sang and bopped along to the happy tune, his first comment was about how immoral it was, sleeping with a woman that leaves you when you go and wash your face. Then he criticized the chord progressions and how it never resolved at the end, blahblahblah. He really crushed us all that day. At least, he crushed me.

That incident has stuck in my poor brain for almost forty years, and I just heard this song on the radio, and for whatever reason, I feel moved to write about it now, because later I learned about Saint Cecilia the patron saint of musicians, and how the meaning of the song suddenly became clear to me.

Mr. Redman was wrong.

Popular music can be good, deep, meaningful, and creative.

No Lubrication Needed