I owe it all to Dad.
This may seem like an odd tribute to my dad for Father’s Day. But in fact, it’s an entirely appropriate one. The lion’s share of whatever musical, photographic or geek aptitude I may have, I got from my dad. Among many, many other things, Dad was a musician. He was the lead singer, arranger, occasional keyboard player, and reviser of lyrics for a swing band that gigged regularly from about thirteen years before I was born until I was six years old. He had a day job, but he also had a vast collection of record albums, a huge set of speakers and a half dozen microphones, reel-to-reel tape recorders, turntables, a record-cutter, an accordian, an old piano, and an assemblage of all sorts of audiophile equipment which occupied much of our basement when I was growing up. Sometimes a few of the guys would gather in the basement and cut a record. I was not allowed to witness this enterprise unless I promised to be very still and very quiet. But I didn’t mind, because it was entirely fascinating and completely fun. Later on, when the band stopped gigging, my dad began to serve as a disk jockey for local dances and community gatherings. Back then, the phrase “stacks of wax” was a literal description of the piles of records albums he would haul around to these events.
But for about twenty years, my dad and the band played for money in clubs and at various functions like weddings, and for free at family gatherings. When they played a paying gigs, audience members often bought a few rounds of drinks for the band members while they put away several themselves. When their audience was sufficiently tanked, one of my father’s favorite things to do was to start singing “alternate” lyrics, usually comic ones, to the pop songs he performed. Most of the audience members didn’t notice or didn’t care by then, but the band members got a huge kick out of it. Dad was also a big fan of folks like Spike Jones, a musician whose was known for his comic and satirical parodies of popular songs of the 1940′s and ’50′s. I listened to so many of these types of recordings with my dad when I was growing up, and heard so many of his own versions of song lyrics, I didn’t know the actual words to old standards like “Stardust” until I was an adult. And it wasn’t exactly a big surprise that I ended up being a band singer myself for a while in my semi-sordid, but hugely entertaining youth. For a more complete description of my rock star aspirations, see my previous post, Why I’m Not Liv Tyler’s Mother. Naturally, I was a huge fan of the song parodists of my own music, like the wonderfully twisted Weird Al Yankovic. But I certainly never anticipated that all this would later lead to my turning into the Weird Allie Yankovic of cancer!
When life hands you lemons, squeeze ‘em till you laugh.
Even though it was rough to be diagnosed with cancer after both of my parents were gone, in a way I’m glad they weren’t alive to witness it. It would have broken both their hearts. But I think Dad would have approved of my musical and pictorial response to having cancer. If I learned anything from him, I learned that there is indeed a way to laugh at almost anything, if you have a slightly askew perspective on life and a demented enough imagination to express it. So, in tribute and gratitude to my Dad, I’ve decided to share the musical mayhem I’ve gotten up to this year. The audio recordings are downloadable mp3′s, so feel free to blast them on your iPod if you are so moved. There’s also a video — my first YouTube outing!! And please do share the link! I’d like to think I’m spreading laughter and mayhem wherever it may be needed.
Some of these have already appeared here in previous posts. I’ve remixed a few of them (now that I’m starting to figure out how to actually use the audio mixing software…) to clean up the sound quality. But there are a few new additions. If I keep this up, The Amazon’s Remix is going to turn into an album. And maybe a road show… Meanwhile, crank up the volume!
The first musical adventure was published here on March 29th of this year. The Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive” has been something of an anthem for a lot of us folks who’ve had cancer, but I thought the lyrics needed a little revising.
This next tune came about from an online convo I was having with a sistah-blogger. We refer to one another as sherpas, and she thought we ought to have our own song, something like the Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girls.” Well, that was all I needed, so I wrote “Sherpa Girls,” for all the cyber sistahs, real world sistahs, bloggers, blog readers, and friends who’ve helped me keep my sanity since The Day I Found Out (which happens to be the name of a blog for people who’ve had cancer). We all need our Sherpas, those people that help you surmount the hostile peaks and traverse the barren valleys of the Big C.
Speaking of “the day I found out,” perhaps the next worst occasion is the day you find out that someone you love has cancer. Just thinking of the reason I wrote this next tune makes my eyes well up. One of my own dear sherpas, a woman I’ve known for ages, who helped me through my own cancer experience by always being available to listen, and by making sure I got to do normal stuff while I was recovering, told me that week that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The last thing I ever wanted to do was to have to switch roles with her. That wretched feeling of helplessness made me think of an old Crosby, Stills & Nash tune.
That entire week was the pits. Not only did one of my BFF’s join the “Club,” but a few other good pals were grappling with metastases, BRCA status and the need to schedule prophylactic surgery, being broke because of cancer, and generally having their lives turned upside down. I was not a happy camper. Some serious rock was needed. One of my fave tunes to rock out to happens to have been written by a man who died of cancer, Warren Zevon. So, I took his rousing complaint about bad luck, “Lawyers, Guns & Money,” and rewrote it.
By now, I was on a roll. The next few tunes came fast and furious. The first is just a great old rocker by “Tears for Fears” (now, there’s an apt band name for the cancer experience!) that I applied to my utter disgust at the pinkwashing of breast cancer. Oh, yes, thank YOU, corporate America, for turning my disease into a marketing opportunity. The next tune I happened to hear while I was getting lunch one day, and I thought it really lent itself to that most miserable of cancer treatments, chemotherapy — namely Micheal Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” The last tune, by Blondie, I also heard serendipitously, and I thought, yeah, we all know about hanging on the telephone, waiting to hear the results of our latest scans and lab tests. So, here they are.
And last, but certainly not least, somewhere in all this activity, mostly because the past few weeks haven’t been too stellar either, I decided to turn one of the tunes into a video. So, I loaded up a bunch of photos and drawings that I had stashed away, got to use some new (free!) software, and uploaded it to YouTube. It’s official now — I’ve gone multi-media! I’ve embedded several videos into my posts in the past, but it gives me a great deal of satisfaction and sheer delight to embed one of my own!! One of these days, I’m going to get a film crew together and produce a real movie for “Stayin’ Alive.” Oh, I can just see that one in my head…move over, John Travolta! Here comes The Amazon!!
Rock on, my friends! And please share the musical mayhem with those in need of a good, snarky laugh. I’m working on that road show. Hmm. Maybe I should get myself an agent…
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