Music: my mom and my dad

West Side Story

As part of my birthday month celebration, I’ve selected songs tied to a particular time and place, or occasionally multiple times and places, in my life. I associate these with my mom and my dad.

I wish I could find a recording of Be Kind To Your Parents that sounds like the pink vinyl we had growing up, possibly from Peter Pan Records. My sister Leslie and I would sing it to our parents, and I sang it to my daughter.  Here’s Florence Henderson singing it, not as perkily as I remember it.

I’ve noted my father’s vinyl collection growing up, music I listened to in our living room. Of all his singles, Forty-Five Men In A Telephone Booth by The Four Tophatters is the one I most loved. I bought a compilation album mainly for this one track. We listened on a brown squarish record player that played at 78, 45, and 33. To listen to the 45s, one had to put an adapter on the turntable.

My mother, sisters, and I went to see West Side Story in a second run, probably at the Riviera or Strand Theater on Chenango Street in Binghamton. My baby sister was young enough that the ticket seller questioned whether she should be allowed to see the movie. When I heard   Quintet, I thought, “I didn’t know you could have two competing melodies like that!”

My father owned an album by  Joan Baez, a “best of” from 1963(!). One of the songs the Green Family Singers performed was this version of So Soon In The Morning, which featured Bill Wood. Leslie and I sang it at my 50th birthday party. My friend Laura and I sang it at my former church in the 1990s.

What is he listening to?

My mother came home from the grocery store. I went to the car to help haul in the food. When I returned to the living room, the stereo, playing the eponymous Vanilla Fudge album, was turned off. My mom said, “The record player must be broken. The song kept getting louder!”  No, it was just the crescendo at the end of Take Me For A Little While, which retreated sonically in short order.

I was listening to the Tommy album by The Who. The last track, We’re Not Gonna Take It, was on. My father was in the room, reading the newspaper, I think. When he heard the lyrics, “We forsake you, Gonna rape you, Let’s forget you better still,” he peered over the paper with a look that said, “What IS that boy listening to?” But he said nothing.


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