It wasn’t for many of my childhood years until I realized another kind of music existed beyond Country (and also Western, as the joke goes). I remember turning on a radio in someone else’s house and American Pie was playing. This wasn’t Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard or Jeannie C. Riley. I was intrigued. Of course, my mother came in the room and acted like I had set off a fire alarm. Turn that shit down honey. It’s too loud! But try as she might to suppress it, the cat was out of the bag. During our stay at that home – Grandma’s no less – I found out about Kansas and Boston and Elton John.
Later as I struggled through my teenage angst, I would wrap myself in a blanket of blues/rock music, from the Stones to Led Zeppelin to Jethro Tull; Parliament to War to Ohio Players. It was pretty much what everyone else was listening to at the time, cruising around or laying in the grass at at the park. I couldn’t listen to it in the house at anything above 2, because mom would have a fit about the noise. She hated all of it.
But things change. Some time after I flew the nest and she started a new chapter in her own party life, she became more involved in the Hollywood music scene and opened up to it. She was deep into drawing by this time and would do portraits of the musicians she had affairs with and even a couple of album covers. Cool enough, I supposed, but this was her life, separate from mine.
Now you may not have been a fan of Steve Perry way back when, but I was. Judge all you want, but when I showed her a picture of him crooning out a blues song, she fell in love and drew him just for me. Out of all the work she has done, the Perry drawing means the most to me because we finally connected to the same thing at the same time. She realized it and lovingly memorialized that picture in this soulful piece.
Although I had stopped listening to Country music for so many years, now when I hear it, I think of her as not just what a mother she was to me, but what a great friend. Maybe I should have taken her to those concerts after all.