12 September 2010

Reggae Head

The southeastern Virginia of my youth was far from a cornucopia of music, when I was growing up there.  We had variety alright, if variety was represented by the Big Trinity of country, deep-fried classic rock and Top 40.  Things like punk, new wave and disco were around but were sort of the red-headed stepchildren of the Tidewater music scene.

I guess that makes me a red-headed stepchild by default.

My brother and I, mostly through his efforts, probably had a wider range of musical tastes than most of our peers.  It explains how we made the transition from Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kiss to the Sex Pistols, the Clash and Devo.  Even with our quasi-cosmopolitan worldview, though, we were still not what would have been called worldly.  Things like jazz and reggae were words we knew, not sounds we heard.  It isn't that those things weren't around, its we didn't really know they were around so we never pursued them.

Later, much later, as adults, our tastes truly expanded.  We were listening to and appreciating everything from speed metal to blues and jazz to grunge, Americana, and even on rare occasions, gospel and reggae.  Reggae never gained much traction on me even far into adulthood.  I don't really know why, unless it was lack of time combined with lack of investing energy in actually listening to it.

That has changed some in the past few years, especially in the last year.  In that time frame I acquired a compilation of old school reggae music from the 60's, through the good graces of a former coworker of mine.  She told me I'd probably like it, so I borrowed it, and yeah, I was taken in.  I really dug it.  It was very different from the reggae I was used to hearing, which I believe now was a result of mostly hearing reggae through the filter of radio stations whose programming directors were more interested in beach party music than roots music.  As an imperfect analogy, I'd say it is like the difference between true classic rock and second generation hair band rock.  One is the real deal, and one is a pale imitation.

Another turning point is what my Wee Lass discovered about Bob Marley.  Rather, it is what my Wee Lass taught me that she had discovered about Bob Marley.  Her Royal Cuteness likes his song "Three Little Birds", and she can sing it almost in its entirety.  I know she picked up its essentials from watching Nick, Jr., and that is okay. What really blew me away and won my heart was one day the song came on the car radio, and she starts singing right on cue, warbling away with the master himself.

I would have sung more of it myself, but I kept choking up every time I looked in the rear view mirror, and her eyes on mine as she sang "Every little thing, gonna be alright..."

I know many times I don't believe that...but when she sings it, it sure sounds like the truth, mon.


  1. Wee Lass would fit right into our house on Sunday mornings, when Beloved puts the iPod on "reggae" while he reads the paper and I cook brunch.

    Every little thing gonna be all right. Really.


  2. P.S. How are you enjoying the Laphroaig? I found it a rather medicinal tasting. Love me some Talisker though - you should try Abelour, too. Yum.


  3. The universe sending me Three Little Birds on the radio one day last week saved me from going down the rabbit hole of unbloggable hell that day.

    I just needed someone to tell me it was gonna be all right.

  4. When Johnny was little, every time he'd fall, we'd sing: get up, stand up!

  5. Oh, and by the way, you would love the playlist I'm making for my "walk/trudge/trying to clydesdale run-trot"...found lots of oldies but goodies...oingo boingo, Thomas Dolby, B52s...too fun...hope I don't keel over to Blister in the Sun.

  6. My sister-in-law absolutley loathes reggae. The only thing she hates more than reggae is people who dance to reggae. On this, we disagree.

  7. That last part really touched my heart. I was looking in that rear view mirror at Wee Lass.

    It's incredible how the wee ones get so easily picked up and taken away with music, singing with joyful abandon. Seems like as adults, we really get into our music, too, but we also tend to dissect it a bit.

    Marley. Reggae eternal.

  8. So you grew up in the Tidewater area? I am originally from Gloucester, VA. I only knew rock and roll growing up. But in graduate school enjoyed reggae. Love Toots and the Matals.

  9. Awww. I liked picturing her doing that...

    I found Marley and UB40 in the 80's and loved them. We used to dance beachside to live reggae in law school. Sigh. That took me back.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...