Track 4: Where does America begin?

Where does America begin?

M.C. Mallet

 

“Where are you from?”

“I was born in Germany.”

“Wow. What’s it like there? Do you speak German?”

“I don’t remember it; we left when I was about two.”

 

“Where are you from?”

“Kansas.”

“They have Black people in Kansas?”

I am a Black man, a U.S. citizen by birth, though born in Europe, whose first words (according to family legend) were in German. I am the child of a Black American Southerner and  an Afro-Panamanian immigrant  and native Spanish speaker with roots in Jamaica and St. Lucia. I was reared in the Roman Catholic church, not the Black church. The first 13 years of my life were spent in motion—Germany, California, Utah, Kansas, Colorado, Panama—living on Army bases with Army families similarly transient and ethnically/culturally mixed. At the beginning of my teenage years, I fell into what we conventionally call “America.” Kansas, to be specific. The middle of the middle. Landlocked. Predominantly white. Population about 35,000. A small town in general terms, but a city in that region of the country. (more…)

Track 3: Tuesday is Gone

Tuesday is Gone

Douglas Thompson

 

When I was twelve, my father took me to an electronic blowout sale in an abandoned department store less than five minutes from our house. The Panasonic single component system held everything a young boy could want: turntable with precision needle technology, radio with AM and FM, equalizer, and stop-my-heart-cold two cassettes players with dual-function recording. If that wasn’t enough for this wannabe rock star, the system came with three-foot high cabinet speakers.

As an only child, I would spend hours in my room listening to music—memorizing all the lyrics to albums or songs on the radio. Top 40 was mostly my game since my parents frowned on the “rock” station. Before I came into possession of that component system, I also came under the influence of my two older cousins, who entered our lives and house as their parents’ marriage deteriorated. Our home became  a designated safe zone and the boys moved freely into and just as easily out. Their imprint, however, stayed with me, especially an introduction to Southern rock.

The younger cousin, two years older than me, became a constant companion in the summers. We listened to the radio and copied lyrics on yellow notebook paper. We imagined starting a rock band, even though neither one of us knew how to play a guitar or drums. Singers, we decided, got the most girls, so we would be singers. (more…)

Track 2: Flow My Tears

Flow my tears

Claire Miller Skriletz

Flow my tears, fall from your springs…

How nice it must be to be able to cry at the right times, instead of sobbing for no apparent reason when life is going well. Or to be able to cry when someone close dies.

Exiled, forever, let me mourn.

Is self-imposed exile the same as being exiled? Claire pondered this as she considered how her relationships with friends and family had changed since she moved two thousand miles across the country four years earlier. She reminded herself again that no matter how hard it had been, it was the right decision. She had grown tired of her life before; even if life since had been hard emotionally, it was still worth it. The most recent visit to her friends and family had been the most difficult yet – her two closest friends didn’t seem so familiar anymore, despite her efforts to keep in touch. For the first time in their friendship, she and her friend Val had spent several hours together with long, uncomfortable pauses in conversation. (more…)

Track 1: Music Saves

Music Saves

Sean McCloud

The album’s cover alone signaled that this was definitely not going to be like Rupert Holmes singing about Pina Coladas or Rod Stewart gauging how sexy I thought he was.
The album’s cover alone signaled that this was definitely not going to be like Rupert Holmes singing about Pina Coladas or Rod Stewart gauging how sexy I thought he was.

For some people, Jesus saves. For me, music saves. It always has and still does.

Coming from a shitty little poor town in rural northern Indiana, I was trapped by geography, class, and the limited mass and social media technologies of the 1970s and 1980s.

I grew up wanting to escape, but feeling confined by my surroundings and unsure of how I could ever get out (I mean, come on, a family “vacation” for my grandparents and me was a forty mile drive down state road 421/43 to the city of Lafayette to get groceries at Pay-Less and have dinner in the McDonald’s parking lot).  

In my early to mid-teens—and especially after my grandma died a few days before my fourteenth birthday—music solidified as something that I could bury myself in, get my frustrations out through, and learn from. It was something affective that made me feel things with my body and brain. The music and lyrics to my favorite songs, albums, and bands put words to things that I vaguely felt but had no language for. Music helped me imagine a life outside of my hometown. Music taught me to question assumptions.  And Gang of Four’s Entertainment!—perhaps more than any other album—initially pushed me to question things in such ways that continue to influence who I am and how I think today. (more…)

Long Day: An Introduction to Albums

Long Day

Kelly J. Baker

 

It was a Saturday in mid-April. The kids were off to Grandma’s house. Chris was working in his office upstairs, listening to music with his headphones on. The rhythmic thump of his foot on the floor above me suggested that he was probably listening to Miranda Lambert or Kacey Musgraves, the current favorite artists of all four Bakers. And I was waiting on him to finish work, so the two of us could spend the day together.

I picked up a broom to sweep and kill time.

My half-hearted attempt at cleaning required a soundtrack, so I pulled up the Amazon Music app on our television and scrolled through the library of music we’ve accumulated in fourteen years of marriage. I passed by Jimmy Eat World, P!nk, the Pitch Perfect 1 and 2 soundtracks, Musgraves, Miranda, Taylor Swift’s 1989, Maroon 5, Kansas, Rachel Platten, Reba, Fall Out Boy, and Journey. None of these artists or albums interested me. I didn’t want to listen to any of them. I searched on. (more…)