I wish I could say that my first music memories were something really epic or cool, an eponymous classic album that has stood the test of time and is remembered as an icon of its era. However, that isn’t the case. One of my earliest memories of a song that was not directly aimed at children was There’s A Kind of Hush by the Carpenters. I remember listening to it at my cousin’s house in Illinois and I was hooked.
My dad made a copy of the cassette, so I listened to it multiple times growing up. I don’t know what it is about that song — the mellow instrumentals, Karen Carpenter’s rich and warm voice, the benign lyrics — but there was something that drew me to this style of music.
As I got older, I discovered and experienced many other types of music, but the Carpenter’s easy listening adult contemporary genre of music has always had a special place in my heart. I could blame it on my parents — they are the ones that bought me a John Denver album for my birthday. And I would listen to my dad’s records — Kenny Rogers, Glen Campbell, Johnny Mathis. But I enjoyed the music, no one forced me to listen to it. No one forced me to like it.
I was in high school when Natalie Cole released her version of Unforgettable. She performed the song with a digitized version of her father — super advanced for 1991. I liked it so much that I bought the cassette single (remember those!) of the song and eventually bought the entire album on CD. In college, I would amaze my friends by knowing all of the songs on the soft rock/easy listening radio stations.
As an adult, my musical tastes have become quite varied: from classical to pop-punk to Broadway to Brazilian pop to Bossa Nova to Europop. But whenever I just need music in the background, I will play my Pandora list that was curated from the song Arthur’s Theme (When You Get Lost Between the Moon and New York City). Christopher Cross, quite literally the master of the genre, sang this song for the movie Arthur. He is also known for the classic easy listening songs Sailing and Ride Like the Wind — both of these songs feature heavily on my playlist. Also in rotation, is John Denver. As an adult, I have grown to appreciate his music — his yearning lyrics, the stories his songs tell, the melodies, the soaring vocals. I have never been to Montana, but when he sings Wild Montana Skies, I can’t help but sing along, straining my voice in an attempt to match his tenor voice.
There is a comfort in this music — I believe that it’s a mixture of the melodic nature of the songs; the sweeping, sometimes haunting orchestrations; and the story laden lyrics. Name a better ballad than The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot. Maybe it’s because the music is tinged with a certain element of longing and nostalgia. Even though this was the popular music of the 70s and early 80s, there is nothing in today’s music that can compare with this style and type of music. Sometimes you don’t realize the impact musicians have on you until after they are gone. I still remember where I was when I found out about Karen Carpenter’s death in 1983 and John Denver’s death in 1997. Only a few celebrity deaths have greatly impacted me, but these are two that did.
Amanda and the kids will often joke about my “soundtrack” and how it is always on. I am listening to music most of the time. And yes, I fully admit I love easy listening music. I love The Carpenters, John Denver, Glen Campbell, Dione Warwick, Burt Bacharach.
At one point in time, I might have been a bit embarrassed to admit I liked this music. It is definitely not the “cool” music — perhaps of any era.
But, I do.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m listening to some Simon and Garfunkel.