Music. I love music–all types of music from country, new age, contemporary, jazz, rhythm & blues (a.k.a. R&B), reggae and more. The only genre of music that I am indifferent to, is opera. I was never exposed to it, and as I grew older never developed an appreciation for it. Of all the genres however, rhythm & blues is my rock.
I grew up listening to what is now considered “R&B” music. I fully realize that the music you grow up with often plays a huge factor in dictating your future likes and dislikes, and that my choices will invariably differ from others. As a teenager, I used to sit alone, in a dark room, jamming to R&B tunes on the radio. I knew all the words and sang my heart out. I have an okay voice, but believe me, it is nothing to write home about. Anyway, I find that there was, and still is, heart, passion and soul in the R&B oldies that is rarely replicated in today’s music. Regardless of the time or place, the oldies will invariably stop me in my tracks and send me careening back to that girl singing her heart and soul along with the music that she loved. It is not easy for me to whittle my loves down, but I’ve listed them, as well as little tidbits of information about each one.
- Aretha Franklin I adore Aretha Franklin. She instills heart and soul in her songs, and does so better than anyone that I can think of.
- The Staple Singers This is a family group consisting of among others, Papa Staples and his daughters. Like many of that era, their music has its’ roots in gospel music.
- Al Green He was also known as the Rev. Al Green because in 1976, he was ordained pastor of a Memphis, Tennessee church located down the street from Elvis Presley’s Graceland.
- Marvin Gaye When Barry Gordy, head of Motown records, first heard Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” he refused to released it fearing that it was ‘too political.” Although the song refers to the ills of the day, I find that it is equally applicable today. Sadly, in 1984, Gaye’s father killed him.
- The Jackson Five Okay, before you call me on it, I admit that the group also sang pop songs, but they also sang R&B and soul music. Given the amount of time that I spent singing and dancing to their music, I can not in good conscience exclude them.
- The Temptations A five man group, the Temptations were known for their dance moves and flashy dress.
- Ike and Tina Turner A husband and wife duo with a tumultuous relationship. After severing ties from Ike Turner, Tina Turner became a popular solo artist.
- Stevie Wonder He was 12 years old when he recorded Fingertips I and Fingertips II.
As I said at the outset, this is an incomplete list of the musicians who affected me throughout my childhood. Yet, they are representative of the music that touched my heart and is seared into my soul. To this day, I am apt to burst into song when I hear a familiar tune.
More than that, I’ve come to realize that,
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” ~Maya Angelou
Much like books, music is a balm for my mind, body and spirit. Through music, I learned the value of acknowledging, expressing and understanding complex emotions. Through it, I learned that music could be my voice, whatever my thoughts and feelings, and that I was rarely alone in those feelings.
What about you? Do you have any music memories? How does music influence you? I’d love to hear.