Posted by: CeCe | April 8, 2013

Chantilly Lace and a Heart-Shaped Box

The other day while I was posting videos on Facebook of Layne Staley and Kurt Cobain to commemorate the day they each left the world, I was thinking a lot about the relationship I had with my mom.  When I was growing up, music was a huge part of our life.  I was exposed to all kinds of music: Classic country, classical, and gospel through my dad; classic rock through my oldest two siblings; rap and metal through my older brother; modern country through my older brother and my sister; gospel, swing, big band, jazz, and oldies through my mom.  Dad loved all kinds of music (except rap and rock), while Mom would listen to just about anything.  I tested that a lot when I was a teenager.

For those who may not have known my mom, she was a devout Christian, and was the church pianist at every church we attended.  She was also in her 50s by the time I hit my teenage years, so the idea of having her listen to Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pink Floyd, or Ozzy Osbourne should have been unconscionable.  Yet it wasn’t.  I had her listen to all of these artists and more, to show her that it wasn’t all “filth” like she had thought it was (and to test her), and her reactions always surprised me.

She didn’t really care for Nirvana until I had her listen to some of their Unplugged material, which is when she said that Kurt did actually have a pretty nice voice.

When I had her listen to “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, she said that it was some of the best guitar playing she’d ever heard, but she hated Robert Plant’s voice, until I had her listen to “All My Love” and gave her the back story for it (he wrote it for his five year old son Karac, who died of a stomach infection while he was on tour with Led Zeppelin).  I wonder sometimes what she would think of Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’ collaboration.

About Ozzy Osbourne, I had her listen to his duet with Lita Ford, “Close Your Eyes Forever” and she thought it was surprisingly beautiful.  She also liked “Mama I’m Coming Home”.  A friend of mine had her listen to “I Just Want You”, and other than the line “there are no believable gods”, she actually liked it.

When Kurt Cobain died, I spent the whole weekend after I found out alternating between tears and anger.  Some religious mothers would have condemned me for taking Kurt’s death so hard, since he was a drug user who allegedly committed suicide… but not my mom, no.  Instead, she told me about the day she found out that Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, and the Big Bopper had been killed in a plane crash, and how upset she was to see the loss of such great talent, so she understood my feeling of loss, though she wouldn’t let me attend the candlelight vigil for Kurt in Seattle.  At the time, I thought she was so mean for that, but now I realize that if I had been older, she would have let me go.

I had her listen to Alice in Chains, both from their Unplugged album, and from Jar of Flies, and she thought their music was beautiful.  I was devastated when Layne died, and my mom shared my grief, saying that he had been such a good-looking man, with an amazing voice, and it was so sad and wasteful how he died.  She also thought it was terrible that no one knew he had died until two weeks after the fact.  She said then that in our family, that would never, ever happen.  If she didn’t talk to any of us kids for even a couple days, she started getting worried.

Her reaction to Metallica was hilarious.  She had always thought of Metallica as being something that she would never, ever consider listening to, but then I played “Nothing Else Matters” for her and didn’t tell her who it was until the song had ended.  She kept trying to guess who it was, but had no idea.  When I told her it was Metallica, her mouth dropped open, and she said, “But that was so beautiful!  I didn’t know they played that kind of music!”  I also had her listen to “Sad But True” and “To Live is to Die” and she thought both were amazing songs.  Needless to say, however, I did not mention “Dyers Eve”, “Holier Than Thou” or “Leper Messiah”.

I repeatedly tested my mom’s patience, in more ways than one, but over music, we were able to bond.  We spent many phone conversations discussing this or that band, and when she came to stay with my husband and me for a couple weeks when we were living in Germany, we spent a lot of time listening to music.  I exposed her to Nightwish, Leaves Eyes, and Within Temptation, amongst many other bands, and there isn’t a single one that she didn’t like.

She had this rule that she would never buy me secular music for any holidays or my birthday, but one year for Christmas, she bought me two Pink Floyd albums on vinyl.  She said she felt bad because they were used, but I didn’t mind.  Why did she buy them?  Because she actually liked Pink Floyd!  I had her listen to several of their songs, and she loved all of them.

She’s been gone for almost four years now, and I still have so many songs that I wish I could share with her.  Now sometimes when I’m listening to something that I love, I think of her, and how open-minded she was about the music I love.  I’ve said before that sometimes it’s hard to smile when I think of her because I miss her so much and there is such an empty space where she should be, but remembering her critiques of some of the songs I had her listen to is one thing that does make me smile, even if it’s a sad one.

It’s my hope that up in heaven, Mom’s enjoying jamming with John Bonham, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, Janis Joplin, Mama Cass, Karen Carpenter, John Lennon, Shannon Hoon, Layne Staley, Mike Starr, Andrew Wood, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Bradley Nowell, and all the many other amazing musicians who died before their time.  That thought actually does make me smile.

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