I’m not always the world’s biggest birthdays guy. I don’t get too excited about my own, and most of my family members (even in the extended orbits) are well into their adult years. This kind of dims the enthusiasm for birthdays and general holidays (you love watching kids tear into gifts, right? But adults exchanging greeting cards or going out for dinner is NICE, but it isn’t exactly Norman Rockwell territory).
But there are a few birthdays I like to honor. My brother’s birthday, my wife’s birthday and the birthdays of my parents. I’m not exactly rolling in cash, so these tend to be phone calls and greeting cards, but the sentiments are true and heart felt.
And here we are, with my dad’s birthday coming right up. His birthday is Jan. 27, which is tomorrow as I type this. As music is my major passion and my dad influenced a lot of my music tastes, it seems fitting to talk about him a bit here.
Both of my parents have contributed to my appreciation of music. But it would be true to say that my dad has helped shape my tastes the most. He got me into The Beatles, into Harry Chapin, into Styx and into so many other acts.
It’s funny in a way, because my dad has dealt with impaired hearing since he was very young. As much as he’s loved music over the years, he hasn’t been able to fully appreciate it. He’s basically deaf in one ear, and has significant hearing loss in the other. But with the help of hearing aides, he can still enjoy music.
With both my parents, music was always playing in the house. It was something I could bond with my dad over. My brother and my dad could talk tools, cars, math. My dad and I had music and books.
One artist that my dad got me into was Billy Joel. Both of my folks like Joel’s music, but my dad had a couple of his albums (“Piano Man” on vinyl and “An Innocent Man” on cassette) and those were my gateways into Joel’s catalog.
I’ve written about Billy Joel before (including the great “Turnstiles” album), and I’ve even assembled my own dream setlist (click here to enjoy it on Spotify), and I’ve lamented not seeing him perform the last time he was in my area. Clearly, I’m no stranger to Billy’s music and like him enough to revisit him regularly.
I’ve got many friends who don’t like Billy Joel, for whatever reason (they’re quick to explain themselves, but I see no need to rehash it all here). Honestly, I don’t much care. I doubt Billy does, either. He’s done his albums, made his millions, he tours and the people who want to see him are able to see him. It’s a pretty good situation. If you don’t care for his music, you don’t have to go. I guess it’s a bit of a win-win, right?
I like Joel’s variety. I like his phrasing. I like his humor. I like his ability to take on different narrative slants with a range of musical styles. I like his stories.
And I’d love to see him in concert. He’ll be playing Target Field on July 28, but I don’t think it’s in the cards for me to see him. What with my lack of employment in November and December and the intermittent work in January, I don’t have the financial space to jump on tickets. And when the employment front is firmed up and I’m steadily working, I don’t want to muddy the waters with already having a date to request off.
So next time, I suppose. “Next time” has become something of a mantra for me and concerts. It hasn’t always worked to my advantage. I said “next time” to The Monkees when Davy Jones was with them. Then I said “next time” when The Monkees toured after his passing, with Michael Nesmith even on board! Ah, the bitterness of next time can be overpowering.
But my parents raised me to be responsible. My parents raised me to take care of my commitments. Heaven knows there were lots of things they wanted to do or see, but they had my brother and me to raise. They had bills to pay. They made it work. So will I. And I’ll still have fun while doing it!
So maybe I’ll live vicariously through fans who post videos to YouTube or Facebook. And that’s OK. I have the music, on vinyl and CD. I can listen to Joel on Spotify and Amazon. I’ve contributed to his bank accounts plenty. And I’ll always be able to make memories in other fashions. Heck, maybe next time he hits Minnesota, I’ll be in the seats!
It could happen.
In any event, I’m content with the music I have. I’m groovy with playing my dad’s copy of “Piano Man” on the record player and enjoying “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” and “Captain Jack” in the comfort of my own home.
Hey, it worked for my dad! Maybe when I call him on his birthday, I’ll mention Billy Joel to him. Maybe he’ll tell me about some of his favorite songs, or share some anecdote about how something in his life is tied to a Joel song in some fashion. Back in the day, he said his favorite Joel song was “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” I wonder if it still is. I’ll have to ask him!
Music is a great connector. And it facilitates stories and sharing. It’s good for every occasion.
For my fellow Joel fans, crank it up! For everyone who is celebrating a birthday on Jan. 27, happy birthday! And for everyone else, I hope you find some great music to enjoy to make your Friday a good one.
Chat with you next time around!