What Makes You Dance?


Last week's blog was about things that make you smile. So, gentle readers, this week it's "What Makes You Dance?" Literally, figuratively . . . what kind of music not only makes you smile, but makes you want to move? Or makes your spirit soar? Or inspires you in any number of ways?

I want to take a moment here, right now, to thank my parents for my excellent musical upbringing. Had I not been given the opportunity to learn as much as I did about the arts, and had they not been totally accepting of the choices I made, I would not be writing this post right now. They were totally hip and cool. Even if they didn't like my kind of music, never once discouraged me from listening to it or learning more about it. If they didn't like a particular kind of music, they explained why but didn't prohibit me from enjoying it. Dear parents and grandparents, I encourage you to do the same as you and your children listen to music. We provided our children with as many opportunities and choices as possible. My daughter and her two girls, especially, have quite the eclectic appreciation of music. Granddaughter Jain says she can't imagine a world or a life without it. More on their story next week!

When I was a young girl, my parents exposed me and my siblings to a wide variety of musical and theatrical events. Beyond just going to the movies — although I must say "Mary Poppins" probably began my love of music — they made sure we had as good a cultural upbringing as they could give us.

My first musical learning was from songs of my parents' choice, as I assume it is in most families. Mom and Dad listened to and sang along with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Robert Goulet, Perry Como, et al, and I love their music still today. In fact, when my parents moved from Ohio to North Carolina, they were going to put the entire collection of their old 33 LPs in an estate auction. NO WAY! I rescued all of them, including all of our old Christmas albums.

My love of music from the '40s and '50s is still alive and kicking. Recently, I fell in love with Rosemary Clooney's interpretation of the song "Sway" and can actually see myself dancing the Rumba to it. In my mind only, mind you. Although, you never know. Maybe I can get hubby to a dance class one day. How hard is it to learn the Rumba, I wonder?

Anyway, I digress. Aside from my dad crooning "You Are My Sunshine" or "Me and My Teddy Bear, I was also introduced to my grandma's generation of songs. She would often sing her favorite "old timey" gospel songs and taught me all the words to "Playmate" and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree."

My earliest recollection of rock and roll was when I was about 8 years old and we were on a picnic. Mom and Dad brought along a radio and I hopped around the picnic grounds to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves Me" by the Beatles. I had no earthly clue who the Fab Four were and I doubt my folks did, either. But they didn't change the station, they didn't discourage me from singing and dancing, and my appreciation of all genres of music was nurtured. Mom, in fact, became a huge fan of Rod Stewart later in life and his songs were the only ones her pet cockatiel, Rosie, would sing along to. Mom and Rosie were just that cool!

My parents were the best! They wanted to be sure we had a cultural upbringing and appreciation of all the arts. We saw every movie musical that aired on the big screen: "Oklahoma," "West Side Story," "Paint Your Wagon," "The Music Man," "Hello, Dolly," "Brigadoon" (the TV version of this musical with Robert Goulet is still my favorite and I wish it would get released on DVD), "Fiddler on the Roof," "Grease," "My Fair Lady," "Wizard of Oz" and, by far my mom's favorite, "The Sound of Music."

Not only these, but stage productions as well. We were introduced to acting, performing and music from around the world. I had the bounty of seeing "Cabaret" and hearing a symphony orchestra (more on that orchestra later) onstage in my high school auditorium. I nearly fell off my chair laughing at the antics of Victor Borge — I still pinch myself today that I actually got to see him in person! — as he performed on a movie theater's stage. For something totally outside our frame of reference growing up in southeast Ohio, my parents took us to hear the happy island percussion renderings of the Trinidad Tripoli Steel Band. And to bring it all back home, I saw my seventh-grade English teacher perform in a local theatre production and learned to appreciate this artistic, multi-talented side of him. The very fact that he was not only a teacher proved to me that a person could do many things. Is it any wonder I developed a love of all kinds of music and art?

Getting back to the symphony orchestra that performed at my high school ... growing up listening to my parents' LPs, I developed my first taste for classical music. Although I loved it as I heard it, and learned to play a lot of it taking piano lessons, I mistakenly thought of it as easy listening. You know, the kind of music you would have a string quartet playing in the background at a dinner party. My parents were certainly not putting Wagner on their turntable. When a symphony orchestra came to town, my folks took me along. Yep, I thought, easy listening. These guys were lulling me to sleep and I started to nod off. Until a loud drum and cymbal crash and rapid-fire rhythms jolted me awake! Whoa! What is this? Piqued my curiosity and gave me a whole new appreciation of classical music! It inspired me to the point that I wondered while watching an intense action scene in a movie one day if my love of music and movies could take me into a career composing, or even recording, music for movies. I never did pursue it, but it certainly sparked my imagination.

And THAT is what music should do. No matter the genre you like, whether it be classical, rock & roll, hip hop, rhythm & blues, folk, country, rockabilly, Tex-Mex, bebop, swing, Big Band, opera or gospel. Does it move you? Does it make you want to dance? Does it stir your creative juices? Does it save your soul? Because it should. Whose music has saved your soul? That will be the topic of next week's blog, so stay tuned. And remember, while you're listening to your favorite tunes or dancing to them, as Grampy says,