Apr 202013


No, this is not a reference to sammymaudlin’s recent post in today’s All-Star Jam.

This post is about remembering something good. About the transcendence of music, even crappy music.

Last night, I attended and performed in this year’s Talent Show at the middle school where I work. Yes, we adult faculty were magnificent in our rendition of the Harlem Shake (I’m sure my Funky Chicken will be commented on for years to come). But the part of the afternoon that stood out for me was a student’s rendition of Kansas’s “Dust In The Wind.” I initially guffawed when I saw the song announced on the program. When when she started to play, it realized it was a lovely choice. I am not admitting that this song has some sentimental value as I’d seen Kansas in concert about 3 times when I was growing up. I will admit that it’s a horrible song. But to hear this student sing it in a heart-felt way was oddly transcendent.

It reminds me of that album, The Langley Schools Music Project, and the student renditions of some popular songs at the time. Many of those songs are objectively horrible (“Mandy,” by Barry Manilow!) but when performed by young students (even horribly), they somehow lose some of that dreadfullness and become…palatable? Beautiful? Acceptable? (There is a cringe-worthy but great version of “Good Vibrations” that has been used in some movie soundtracks.) One of my favorites from that album is “Desperado” by [The] Eagles:

I’ve often been cautious about attending student/young performer musical events: they seem to be more the stuff of family photo ops than “art.” I can still recall the dread, waiting for my turn to play in annual piano recitals, sitting next to my father and hearing him rapidly suck air in through his teeth when someone played a wrong note, and then worrying that I would make some laughable mistake.

So yesterday’s performance was just what I needed: the kids who love music and it how it shows, even if what they choose to play is garbage.


  5 Responses to “Good Vibrations”

  1. My son — in the shower — has been singing Power Station’s “Some Like it Hot” — because he likes hot showers — and I blurted it out once, Now it’s high entertainment around our house. We had to hear it again his this AM — then I went on a little nostalgic Robert Palmer trip with “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” and “Every Kinda People” — I bet I hadn’t listen to that stuff in 30 years!

  2. cliff sovinsanity

    I know what you’re getting at with the singing kids. I also work in a school and find it absolutely charming to hear the students sing rock songs.
    What I don’t find charming are songs or ads featuring kids singing off key. I’m amused by the Oscar Meyer theme song or the Stuck On Band-Aid commercial as long as it’s sung well. A good example of an off-key kid is John Mellencamp’s daughter at the end of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. Every time I hear that last 10 seconds of the song with her singing I feel like punching a clown.

  3. ladymisskirroyale

    I’m right there with you on the ads featuring kids singing poorly. It’s like when they have ads with kids with lisps – we all saw that Brady Bunch episode with Cindy having problems with her s’s…it just ain’t pretty.

    My other pet peeve is when you have fake drawings/writing by kids and the art director decides that he/she will throw is some of those backwards s’s, just for fun to show how young and immature the kid is. And of course the writing is in crayon. Yeah, right.

  4. I’m cool with the kids performing rock and roll thing. I got tickets to the Paul Green School of Rock (the inspiration for that Jack Black movie) at a local theater quite a few years ago. It was cool to hear the beginners chug out a slow version of “I Love Rock n Roll” and even cooler to witness the star pupils do an impressive Hendrix set.

  5. My 7 year old son started at the School of Rock about a month ago. It’s a great program. He has a lesson once a week and then on Saturday they have an hour and a half jam where they run through songs like 7 Nation Army, Roadrunner and Blitzkrieg Bop (It’s funny and a little disconcerting to walk into the jam room and hear a tween girl singing Chinese Rocks).

    The Saturday jam is key because the kids want to keep up with their fellow bandmates so it gets them really engaged. I’m amazed at how much progress he’s made in such a short time. It helps that they don’t teach the kids how to read music which is totally unnecessary for beginner rock and roll guitarists.

    The results of the program are quite impressive. Here’s a few videos of some of their older students.
    This Charming Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G07YBV3Q2hw

    Traveling Riverside Blues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZkajWxaTGs

    And Punk Rock Girl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_EQlDry5MI

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