Wanderings – Labels, Tiny Desks, and John Prine

I don’t prescribe to the notion of labelling anything. This does not mean that around my house boxes are not organized or anything. Societal labels, genres, or preconceptions are what I mean. This especially applies to one of my favourite things – music.

My musical influences started like many other people’s, with what the parents listened to. That meant everything from the Bee Gees and ELO to The Beatles and Anne Murray. Seven year old me watching WKRP in Cincinnati thought Dr. Johnny Fever saying “booger” on the “radio” on TV was the coolest thing. The soundtrack of the show set me on the path of eclectic and varied musical interests. Diversity is a good thing.

Music is a great escape. When social things were affecting me at school, I drowned them out by throwing on a pair of headphones. Listening to Dire Straits, R.E.M. or Otis Redding on my Walkman blocked out more issues.

Starting high school, I was one of the first to get a portable CD player. Frequent trips to CD Warehouse emptied my bank account and further widened my musical interests. John Coltrane, Jamiroquai, Yello, and Veruca Salt – what music is this?

Fast-forward to the streaming age, I still enjoy buying CDs (yes they exist) and going to the last-standing Sam the Record Man store is a highlight of any trip to Belleville. I frequently go through iTunes and find new things. Labels here don’t matter at all. Discovering new-to-me music is fun. There’s also a lot of “why have I never heard of this before” revelations which friends will joke about.

For the last two years or so, I have been checking out a YouTube stream from NPR Music called Tiny Desk Concerts. This is a series that has run for more than a decade and has over 900 concerts, each about 15-18 minutes long.

These concerts feature a more acoustic sound to many artists, and a broad range of styles and genres. Listening to a few of these per week has broadened the music world for me even more. And that is how I “discovered” John Prine. For those who know of him, I didn’t realize who he was until recently – sorry. For those who don’t know who he was, look it up online. My favourite song by him is Caravan of Fools – seems an apt song aright about now.

The point of all this music talk is this. As a kid, or an adult, if I had not been open to listening to different music and stuck with what I already knew, I would have missed out on so many other musical experiences.

The same can be said for non-musical things. We are raised by our families and exposed first to those ideals, politics, and influences. Looking into the broader world doesn’t mean that you will eschew what you grew up with, or change your beliefs. Greater knowledge can confirm your world view as much as it can change it. Not having those experiences mean you are missing out.

Just because your parents listened to the Bee Gees doesn’t mean you have to.