My blog is called Always Going Home, and today, I went home. I’m spending the weekend with my parents in the home where I grew up. It’s Easter weekend and that has me thinking about Jesus Christ Superstar, the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. When I had a moment tonight, I leafed through my parents’ record collection looking for it, and the memories started flooding back.
The soundtrack album to Jesus Christ Superstar was released in 1970 when I was in first grade. It was one of the first albums I remember choosing to play from my parents’ record collection, and it pretty much serves as my gateway album into the world of rock and roll when I was a child. I didn’t know it at the time, but the artists on Superstar were also rocking out with Deep Purple, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, and Eric Clapton. It was these bands, and many others like them, that I grew to love in my teenage years.
Along with the soundtrack to Godspell, which was released in the same year, I learned a lot about Catholicism from these popular musical soundtracks of the 1970s. There were many Easter Sundays in my youth spent flipping the four sides of Superstar over and over again on the record player. What’s the Buzz. I Don’t Know How to Love Him. Superstar. I can close my eyes, sitting in my parents’ living room, and imagine hearing these songs for the first time. I flipped through the song lyric booklet tonight and was struck by how much it looks like a missal from church.
My dad was a big jazz fan back in the bebop era, and he had tons of vinyl he let my brother and me play. He built the stereo we had in our living room from a kit he bought at Sam Goody in New York City in the 1950s. There was often music playing in the house, and my dad let my brother and me choose freely and explore his collection. I didn’t like the jazz as much as the musicals, but I was willing to give most of it a try. It took me about twenty years, but I finally developed a love of jazz as an adult.
My mom was a fan of the women that were popular in the 1970s singer-songwriter scene: Anne Murray, Bette Midler, Linda Rondstadt, and Judy Collins. I liked most of these artists too and I found I liked the personal and reflective songs they showcased. I don’t listen to these artists much today, but as I scanned through the liner notes in my mom’s albums tonight, I noticed who wrote the songs: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, J.D. Souther, Jackson Browne, John Prine…all became favorites of mine eventually.
My parents love the musical arts; they pushed my brother and me into taking music lessons on guitar and drums and they often took us to plays, musicals, and concerts. One of my first concerts was seeing trumpeter Chuck Mangione play a free show outside the local PBS television studios. My love of music comes directly from my parents.
Although my tastes have changed a great deal since the years I sat for hours sampling my parents’ record collection and listening to Jesus Christ Superstar on Easter Sundays, I can see the links and the progression of how I got here from there. A friend of mine likes to say, “If you can’t brainwash your kids, then what kind of a parent are you…?”
I am happy my parents brainwashed me musically.