Music can have a profound effect that can stir up memories from days or even years past. Play a song from the 1960’s and watch your mother react to it, taking her back to her high school prom. Play a few notes from a game show and watch your friends react to it, even try to emulate the show’s host. Hearing a song from your wedding can elicit laughter, tears, joy – even if the song was played decades ago. Musicians have an incredible power to move people emotionally, make them think, help them get through a tough time, or simply connect with a loved one.
Several years back, my oldest son was struggling with what music meant. He had to choose an instrument for band in the 5th grade, and he chose the snare drum. He was given a music book, for which he was given homework to practice and learn the instrument. In the beginning, it was work for him, it was a grind. He labored through the most basic principles of music – reading sheet music, timing, playing the correct note (quarter, half, whole). Often times, he would get so frustrated with his music homework, it would almost bring him to tears. It was then that I took his music book away.
I told him to put on his favorite music, to take one drumstick, and find the rhythm of the song, then tap his one drumstick onto his pillow. I wanted him to connect and find his own way, not through a book, not through an assignment, but through his own path. Soon, he was tapping his one drumstick to the beat of his favorite songs, then he picked up the other drumstick and followed suit with the beat with two drumsticks. Then I handed him back the snare drum, and he continued to find the beat of his favorite songs on the snare drum. I had him listen to different songs, which had different beats and rhythm patterns and I asked him to follow the various beats, which he did perfectly. He had found music and timing and rhythm. Then, one night I had an idea.
One of my favorite songs to play on the guitar is “Take It Easy”, written and performed by both Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey of The Eagles. With the passing of Glenn Frey yesterday, I was reminded of my idea several years back and how much joy that song gave me. I was listening to my oldest son practice in his room. I happened to be playing “Take It Easy” on my guitar and fumbling through the lyrics, attempting to sing in that awesome California style, country rock twang voice of the late Glenn Frey. So, I printed out the lyrics to the song so I could better educate myself and noticed my youngest son watching me play and sing. Then, it hit me. Why not have an impromptu jam with my sons playing “Take It Easy.” I took the lyrics, handed them to my youngest son. We read the lyrics together a few times together while listening to the song on my iPod. Soon, my middle child joined in with the lyrics and the laughter. Then, we headed upstairs to my oldest son’s room.
That 15 minutes or so with my sons – jamming together, hearing a 7 year old sing “4 that wanna own me, 2 that wanna stone me” and all of us playing “Take It Easy” – will resonate with me for the rest of my life. My oldest son is now one of the best drummers for his age group in the state of Rhode Island. He lives to play music and has far surpassed me as a drummer, guitar player, and musician. He has an incredible feel for music – its purpose, its soul, its drive, its impact. When I heard Glenn Frey had passed, I immediately thought of that night in my son’s room, where the music of Glenn Frey connected two generations of Roby’s in song. Rest in peace, Glenn Frey.