Throughout most of my life, I’ve been asked that question. Not so much out of interest, but more of incredulousness: “You listen to what? And you’re how old…?”
Well, one wouldn’t think that a 40-ish-year-old guy would spend most of his evenings listening to stuff like Mother Goose, Sesame Street and “Puff the Magic Dragon”, but then, everyone marches to the beat of a different drum, and truth be told, I like listening to children’s records.
It didn’t start out that way, though. I have a very large family, and back when I was at a very young age, the house was full of music: jazz, gospel, R&B, pop, reggae…through the record collection of my mother, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmother. I’d even sit and listen to the music while observing the cover(s) and the spinning label(s). Even at a young age, I’ve had a deep appreciation of the vinyl format.
Then one day, I went to kindergarten. They had vinyl records, too.
But these were different.
Like a moth to a flame, I was instantly drawn to the uniquely illustrated covers of the LP and 45’s and those with read along books. (“‘Peter Pan’? ‘Pinocchio’? ‘Sesame Street Songs’? Wow!!” Well, what can I say? That was my initial reaction to them.) While the other kids went about playing games, toys and yelling and screaming at each other, I sat right next to the record player and observed the covers and watching the labels spin. To this day, I can still tell you what records they had at that time…not that anyone would care, but the point here is that you never forget your first experience.
Cut to 38 years later, with a collection over 1,600 (and counting), the interest has never waned. As to why I still listen to the music, I can provide the following reasons:
1. It’s just plain fun.
2. Despite what one might think, the music is not all just simplistic, twinkly melodies that instantly make you think that fairies have entered the room and sprinkled you with dust that make you fly. Some albums have a little bit of everything: rock, jazz, classical, pop, blues…yes, even disco (which isn’t all that bad). Some might even have material that’s considered cheesy, but that’s part of the charm. I like the cheese. I embrace the cheese. The cheesier, the better. (Okay, the last part was a bit much, even for me. I don’t even like to eat cheese, but that’s another story.)
3. Whenever I get into a blue funk, I could put on “The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers” and it would all be okay again.
4. The graphics, the labels, the catalog numbers etched on the dead wax, the liner notes, the list of the “available” titles…the whole thing.
And the main reason includes the following story:
A couple of years before my mother passed away, she had expressed her exasperation toward my interest with one of the nurses at a dialysis clinic. She went on to say that she loved me, but had often wished that I would grow up and listen to more suitable tastes like R&B, jazz, country…anything but children’s music.
The nurse, listening to my mother’s concern, then asked her a question that ultimately made her come around:
“But does it make him happy?”