Darryl Malone MUS-110 Grace Schwanda November 26, 2013 Musical Heritage
MY MUSICAL HERITAGE
My musical heritage began many, many years ago, through the age of rock, disco, and pop. I do not know the exact year it began, so I will start at grade school. I always thought myself lucky in music, because even at a young age, I experienced all types of music. You see I grew up with American Bandstand. Not only was it the best music and dance show on television at the time, but the only music and dance show on television. Soul Train did not come until many years later. As far as I can remember, Grand Rapids has never had a black radio station. WGRD was it, This is why as a black kid I learned about Rock and Roll. It was all they played. I visited my grandmother’s house often, she lived right around the block, but for the life of me, I can’t remember there being a day that I would hear her listening to music at home. It was always lively over there but never any music present. So a lot of my listening to music was basically what my father and mother listened to. Listening to WGRD did not come till later. Back in the day all of the music was played on your home record player, and at our home there seemed to be a never ending supply of 45’s and LP’s. For the younger generation, these are the wax disc that were played on your phonograph. There was Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Isley Brothers, any jazz, blues, or gospel singers you could think of from back in the day. One of the jazz players from back then, was the subject of a recent book report for this project, “Miles Davis”. However I did not become to understand his type of music until many years later. I remember my father would sit back in his easy chair with his eyes closed, bobbing his head slowly to his music, as if detached from this world, taking in every single note. But we will get to Miles
later. First we will talk about how I became to appreciate all types of music. I don’t think anyone could possibly remember when they first heard music, and the same holds true for me. Most likely we all heard music, and felt the rhythm while lavishly laying in our mothers’ womb. So I will start from when I believe I became cognizant, around the age of four or five. Now this is just a guess, but I think I remember being this age and dancing to some soul music, like the Temptations or James brown. As far as I can remember this was my first era of music. And no one did it better than Mister James Brown, who later became known as the “Godfather of Soul”. It seemed this man put out a new hit every week. If you do not know soul, then you gots to get you some James Brown. The reigning queen at the time , and still hold the title today is Aretha Franklin, who became dubbed as the “Queen of Soul”. Listening to her is when I first associated the term “sweet soulful stylings”. Rock and Roll would come about later, and only soul and jazz was played in our house and around the black community. So I was very well acquainted with soul music. This is the music I danced to, and the music I lip synced to, the music I dreamed about performing on stage to thousands of adoring fans. This, as I can best recall was first my introduction to music. Grade school, Jefferson elementary fourth grade. This would begin to open up a whole new world of music for me. I remember one early morning, an assembly in the gym. It was about students who would like to join the music program. I thought “whoa” how cool it would be to learn how to play an instrument. Maybe the saxophone or the trumpet. I immediately signed up, and they gave us a permission slip to take home to our parents, I don’t think I could have been more excited. I gave the slip to my mother and eagerly awaited her signature so I could rush it back to school. Our introduction to music at Jefferson elementary began with a hearing test and some type of a music aptitude test. I don’t recall exactly what the test consisted of, but I remember it being unusual, and whatever it was I passed. They gave me some big funny looking instrument. It was long and shiny, I was hoping for a
saxophone, but later I found out they did not have any. What the hell is this? I thought, then someone told me this thing was a trombone. Not quite what I had in mind, but I told myself that I would master it in no time. I eagerly began to learn how to read music, but there was something about this instrument, it just was not quite right for me, I thought it was bigger than me. After several weeks, I begged the music teacher to please give me another instrument to try. Eventually my request was granted. He gave me a clarinet! Well not give me, my mother made sure I knew that these instruments cost a lot of money to rent. And I better not waste her and my fathers’ hard earned money. Initially I thought this was the most complicated thing I have ever seen, with all the keys and holes. And maybe I thought this was more likely a girl instrument. But my parents paid good money for this, so giving up was not an option. In no time I mastered the standards, Hot Cross Buns, Scarborough fair, Mary had a little lamb. My first recital was great day, for I performed Twinkle Twinkle Little Star flawlessly, and both my parents were in attendance in the audience, and I nailed it. Thus the beginning of my music career. For the next two years, in my mind, I was becoming a concert virtuoso, playing second clarinet next to first clarinet Wanda C. “that bitch!” I know I was better than her. The teacher just liked her best. It was the summer of 1967, somehow, I simply can’t remember how it came into my possession, I became the owner of an old beat up selmer alto saxophone, not much to look at, but it worked. And immediately I learned it had the same fingerings as a clarinet. At that time, James Brown was really popular, and as far as I was concerned, in his band he had the bad’est sax player that ever lived; Maceo Parker. And I tried my best to learn to play like him. Aha! This is now my instrument. And I immediately went and bought a book on how to play it. That September I was going to the 7th grade, wait until Mr. Murphy (our music teacher) sees this! I switched instruments on my own, and pus I would no longer have to sit next to Wanda. For some reason which for the life of me I cannot remember, I did not take music in the 8 th
grade. But I was playing in neighborhood groups. We never did get any gigs, but it was a chance to hone my skills. Our music of choice was soul was music, but around this time I believe they started calling it rhythm and blues. I favored bands and not singing groups, which I believe was more popular at the time. And I always thought the Temptations were at the top of the list. They at the time was Motown’s bread and butter. Now maybe Mowtown was not the reigning king of the music industry of the country, but it definitely was in the black community of the United States. Oh, I forgot to mention in the 60’s was the British invasion, and the beatles were introduced to America. I must admit I loved their music, but I knew that it would never be my style. I am not embarrassed to admit as a young black kid I was a fan. Even though it was Rock and Roll, I thought their music was totally unique. I feel I must mention before I forget, that I was raised going to the Baptist church. So I was very familiar with gospel, and to tell the truth, it was not my favorite type of music back then. Today gospel is a lot different from what it was when I was a child. In fact, sometimes I cannot tell the difference from gospel or pop music. This is a good thing, because today I get to play my saxophone every Sunday during services and other occasions in the church. This is a good way to keep my chops up. I always hope I can get to the level of Kurt Whalum, the famous gospel saxophonist. But let’ get back to school. Entering the 9th grade at Central High School, I joined the orchestra and the marching band. This is where I came to enjoy classical music. I was still playing soul music in a local band, but nothing gave me quite the satisfaction of playing classical music in the orchestra. Somewhere along the line I switched from the alto to the tenor sax, and was somehow able to become first tenor sax in the orchestra. In the back of my mind I was thinking maybe when I graduated, this would be my career, playing in the orchestra. But nooo… my goal was to play rhythm and blues in a band like Earth, Wind, and Fire. Anyway throughout my teen years I was playing in local bands. This is when I learned about Miles Davis. A lot of musicians had mentioned him. It was not really the first time I had heard of him, because I vaguely remember years ago when my father would sit in his easy chair listening to him.
After seeing him on a few television show, I thought this was one of the most intriguing players. You know we did not have youtube or music videos at that time, so when you did catch him performing on TV, it was just luck. You see Miles had this style of playing where he would never look at the audience, he would have his back to them or he would be looking down. Some people say that when played his music, he was playing for himself. You see miles studied jazz, real jazz and in reading the book by John Szwed, called “So What, The Life of Miles Davis” it was all he thought about. I must admit I was very, very disappointed in reading this book. When I first checked it out from the library, I could not wait to read it, and it was a big book, it was one boring big book. Nothing exciting about it at all. It offered no information in it that the general public did not already know. No secrets to his life, no amusing anecdotes. What a letdown. The only thing I learned from the book that I did not know, was that Miles was from an affluent family. Miles was also a student of Julliard, so he was well versed in classical music, but in his heart, it was all about jazz. So eventually he dropped out of Julliard and studied jazz. Now what does Miles Davis have to do with my musical heritage? You see Miles is credited with putting together a style of music called fusion. This is sort of like rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel, rock, and blues all put together. This is the style of music I love today. This is the type cd’s you will find in my car and home, the type I play in my band today, and basically the only type I listen to. But I digress. As I mentioned earlier I was fortunate enough to live through several music eras. And the best of all time was the disco era. This was it. This was my late teens, and my twenties. Along with the music came the beautiful woman, stylish clothes, and amazing dance moves. I would not ever consider the disco era as outrageous at all. I guess I would call it the smooth era. My favorite music group at the time, and still is today is Earth, Wind, and Fire. If you never listened to them before, you are missing out. They have a style of music that is all their own. A sort of fusion of soul, gospel, and funk. They are also credited with being the greatest crossover group of all time. And also the first African American musical group to make millions of dollars from their concert tours. This is the time where there were many new groups coming out of the woodwork. This was the
disco era, all show. And I felt the music was all about presentation than the sound. I am still not sure today is disco music should be classified as a style or not, but you sure will know it when you hear it. Even though disco was the cool era, my favorite style was jazz fusion. Now today I like to call it smooth jazz. I believe this is a combination of all the music that I have listened to all of my life, including classical. It is the type of music that can be shaped and molded to satisfy anyone, in my opinion. I know for a fact that my preference for my style of music, was never influenced at by my grand parents, because like I said before, I donâ€™t recall ever listening to music in their home whenever I visited. Now maybe my parents had some influence on me about the style of music I prefer, but I think very little if any. I am guessing that most people would think that their preferences for music were most likely influenced by their parents, grandparents, teachers, peers, and even their environment. But I donâ€™t think so in my case. I am saying that over my lifetime I have listened to many types of music, and besides the auditory part of music, I have always thought about the talent to perform it, also the complications in performing it, and the imagination used in creating it. From country to classical. So I guess my preferences for music were arrived at a logical, geeky sort of way. Now I donâ€™t claim to have carefully analyzed every piece of music I have ever heard, but believed me I did put in a lot of extra thought into listening than most people. And every style and genre has been considered. And since taking a music class at GRCC, I am finally learning how to listen and evaluate music in the proper way. With all the new terms and expressions I have learned in the course, I am beginning to see the light. And it has opened up a new path for me to explore. In conclusion, I am very proud of my musical heritage, and not afraid to learn and discover more. I will always enjoy listening to smooth jazz, but I will always love performing any type of music.
Work Cited So What, The Life of Miles Davis John F. Szwed Simon & Schuster, Oct 29, 2002