Sometimes they could be considered the sins of the father. While some can attribute their love for music to their parents, others are left in the wilderness during childhood and have to forge their musical tastes later in life. That was my lot. Neither my dad nor my mom had much of a defined taste for popular music. In the car, my mom mainly listens to classical music and occasionally (shudders) Christian folk rock. (She did have a childhood crush on Elvis Presley though.) My dad’s taste in music is a bit more Gilbert & Sullivan or Gregorian chant.
So it was a surprise when my father asked me if I ever heard of Leonard Cohen while we were having dinner on Father’s Day a couple of weeks ago. I know for many Leonard Cohen is typical dad music but not in my household. Aside from Bob Dylan, he was lukewarm about any other music than what I had previously described.
I tried to introduce him to the Beatles (He missed out on them during Beatlemania despite living in Leeds at the time!!!!!) He said he liked them…but the dusty, once-listened-to cassette copies of the White Album and Sgt. Pepper I bought him tell a different story.
I once got him a copy of The Joshua Tree, the most straightforward album ever created, and it didn’t seem to take hold. I even subtly played The Boatman’s Call by Nick Cave – music I consider absolutely gorgeous at times – while he was in the car once to see if that would draw a reaction.
“You really need to explain this stuff to me one day,” he once said. “I don’t get it.”
But over a plate of fried clams–his favorite food– here was my dad going on a rant about Leonard Cohen, whom he only recently discovered, by the way. He particularly talked about the song Joan of Arc. Apparently, the lyrics reminded him of a spiritual mentor of his from before I was born — a man he described as brilliant and kind but who eventually succumbed to Alzheimer’s and died an “angry person.” He talked about the concept of being “drawn into the fire” and embracing the Holy Spirit, like Joan of Arc in the song, and how that type of commitment could drive someone mad.
Being essentially an atheist, I wasn’t overjoyed about being drawn into this conversation. It was uncomfortable. But still, I wasn’t really one to judge. In a rare instance, I saw a song affect my dad the same way a good song would often affect me, given the right circumstances.
For that, Hallelujah! He got it.
[Leonard Cohen – Joan of Arc.]
Esteban Miguel writes C.V.S., a bi-weekly column on poor music taste, published on Sunday. For any previous Columns on Shit, gander away.