Monday, March 31, 2014

PBS, the Beatles, and Memories

I've always liked PBS. Some of my favorite shows are on PBS such as “Keeping Up Appearances” and “Idaho Reports.”

I was watching a PBS show on Barbra Streisand recently. Though I abhor her politics, I love her voice.

I recorded that PBS Barbra Streisand performance. Often I record PBS shows so I can enjoy them later. Some of my favorite performances on PBS are when Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, and Barbara Streisand perform.

Part of the reasons that I would record those shows was to talk to my stepfather Karl Brown, my mom Faye Dunham Brown, and Carolyn Helland Root, a wonderful friend of mine. I would call them and say “Hey! You should watch PBS tonight because one of our favorite artists will perform.  After that, I will call you to discuss the show.

However, the problem is they are gone now. Sometimes, I get excited about a PBS show, and then I realize they are gone.   But I still record those shows out of memories of them. Old habits die hard.

I also hope some times that my wife and my son will watch shows with me. But they are not really interested especially my son. He has no concept of eclectic music and shows.

I have also realized that my taste in music stems from four people. 

Karl Brown was my stepfather. He instilled a love of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald etc. He encouraged me to read as well. When I was a kid he would buy two copies of the same book. Then we would read it together, and he would discuss the book with me. He would ask questions to make sure that I understood the books. In that way, I would research so much to make sure that I understood the books so I could discuss them with Karl. It was a great incentive for me to research so many books!

Carolyn Helland was like a second mother to me. She would encourage me to read a lot. We would go to Lucky Peak. Carolyn would ask us to lay her blanket on the sand near a big woman. And she would laugh saying “I will look good in comparison.”  Then she would play her portable radio and read books. Her son (who is like my little brother) and I would play in the water. She loved Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, Neil Diamond, Johnny Nash, Simon and Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, etc. Even now, when I think about Lucky Peak in the summer, I can hear Carolyn laughing, playing her radio and singing along with Neil Diamond’s "Sweet Caroline."

My next musical influence was my mother, Faye Dunham Brown. I didn't really like a lot of her music because she loved country, but she would sing around the house a lot and she was a wonderful singer. I have wonderful memories of mom's singing along to the radio. Patsy Cline, Jody Miller singing “Queen of the House,” Buck Owens, Charley Pride, Tammy Wynette, etc. Mom laughed that Tammy Wynette’s biggest two hits were “DIVORCE” and “Stand by Your Man.”  

I have a distinct memory of Mom dancing with one of my brothers. The song was “8 Days a Week” from the Beatles. She had a white blouse and black Capri pants. She was probably 35 at that point. She was laughing.

When she died, her funeral music was HER recording of “Danny Boy” and “Ava Maria.”

That takes me to my fourth musical influence: my brother Dirk Dunham. He loved and still loves the Beatles. It is fitting that a memory of Mom dancing with my brother Steve with a Beatles’ song. 

My first memory of a song was “I Want to Hold Your Hand” from the Beatles. I was probably three years old.
Throughout the 60s, the soundtrack of my life was my brother Dirk and the Beatles. Watching Ed Sullivan in 1964 and later in the late 60s performing “Hey Jude.” Dirk is with me. When my parents were divorced, we lived in a small rental with Mom. That was the winter of “Abby Road.” I would walk home after school, and I would play “Abbey Road” making sure that I did not scratch the record. Later, John Lennon was a major influence for me musically because of my brother Dirk. 

 The first album I purchased was Tree Dog Night’s “It Ain’t Easy.” It cost $3.99 at Grand Central in Boise. It was Christmas and Dirk took me to the store. I was 10. Of course, Dirk took the album later, and I never got it back!

Certainly I have branched out in my musical tastes. I love Pink Floyd, Elton John, R&B, hip-hop, some opera, and classic rock. 

But when I think of those four people, I cannot imagine what my musical tastes would have been without them.

It's amazing that music has been a huge part of my life. In happy times and in sad times, my musical influences helped me to cope in so many ways.

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