Cover of "John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman ...

Cover of John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman (Hybr)

Yesterday was a hot day in Los Angeles. This is the time of year when one day it can be chilly and gloomy, the next 85, and it’s still considered fire season.

We’ve had some sad days around the house lately and at my mother’s age it’s important to pay attention. She is 79 and has had an amazing life, has traveled the world working herself ragged to take care of three wild and broken children. I admire her.

She often asks me if the record player is working. I think she has just forgotten how to use it but I also have a way of messing around with the stereo that probably drives her insane. She has a great collection of 78’s but the needle can’t always handle them; so yesterday when she asked if it worked, instead of saying “I don’t know”, I looked into it.

I put on the cd player instead. On rotation was a Hoagy Carmichael songbook, John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, Frank Sinatra The Early Years, and Dick Haymes. There was also a Steve Reich cd but I took it out – why scare the poor woman?

As we sat in our sunroom listening to this incredibly beautiful, romantic and sometimes silly music, we talked about the memories it brought up in both of us. I told her how much I loved Hoagy Carmichael‘s voice and how I couldn’t believe how many famous songs he had written. She knew (of course) who John Coltrane was but had never heard Johnny Hartman and she really enjoyed his voice. I told her about a love who had given the album to me when I lived in San Francisco. In turn she told me about hearing Peter, Paul & Mary with her mom and a boyfriend in Las Vegas sometime in the 50’s. She couldn’t remember why they were there but she remembered the songs they had sung together on the way home.

She said she felt sorry for my generation and mostly for today’s generation because there was no romance left. There is no music to dance together in a slow embrace. She said after WWII people loved love and corny music because the war had been so brutal on so many. People were appreciative of everything.

I listen to a lot of music, not too much that is made today but music that was considered modern in the 90’s. I grew up with original Hip Hop okay? I’ve always listened to music from other eras and I can’t imagine my life without Jazz of the 50’s, Opera, Classical, etc. One of my favorite fallbacks is something called Songs That Won The War: Celebrating The 60th Anniversary of VE Day. It’s hard to be bothered by the words in these songs. Even my jaded English friends get teary-eyed  listening, thinking of their parents and grand parents living through The Blitz.

I always thought by now when I fell in love that there would be the occasional night where my love and I would slow dance to John Coltrane, it never happened. But hey, you can lead a horse to Coltrane…

Hearing my mom’s stories on this hot evening in November, sipping scotch and listening to music of a special time in her life and in the life of such a important generation, I felt a great deal of gratitude. Even in my current pity party mentality I can feel the love, the romance, the creativity, the soul of real music. I have felt it in my life and even though that music fades I can still reach for it, believe in it and keep it relevant. I will always be a hopeless romantic.

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