“I believe that lyrics bring us together and make concepts like peace, love, and truth seem more possible, within our reach.”
My dad was a Dead Head, really still is. I come by my belief honestly. I was one of the only kids I knew growing up that had a full wardrobe of tie-dyed garments and Birkenstock sandals. I was definitely the only kid who would rather watch VH1 flashbacks with her dad than watch Barney and Friends. I grew up to the many different sounds of the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan so no wonder, that when given this assignment, the only thing that I can think of (that surpasses butterflies), is that I wholeheartedly believe in the awesome power of rock and roll.
We have taken a lot of road trips, my dad and I. One trip we take a great deal is to Florida from DC. It is a very bland ride and it can be very long. I started my audio-phase with books-on-tape, starting with: The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and ultimately graduating to the Harry Potter series. We then developed the not-so-loving bond between father and daughter in which we both would sit in silence and barely have the ability to maintain simple small-talk. By the time I was thirteen, we were enjoying the various sounds of Jerry Garcia on vocals with Bob Weir in the background, Phil Lesh as the bassist, Brent Mydland on keyboard, and Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman on drums. This was the greatest band of all time, or at least that was what my dad thought. He was always talking about the welcoming sound of Jerry’s voice, comparing it to ‘a friendly, creaky old house that always makes you feel at home.’ August 9, 1995, was a sad day for our family. According to my mother, my sister and I were with her in the grocery store by our house when we heard the sad news of Jerry Garcia’s death. We quickly went home to call Dad. I was 4 years old and already had been to three Grateful Dead shows. Since Jerry’s untimely death, my dad and I have graduated from the Dead and taken a liking to such bands as The Who and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Next week we are going to see Phil Collins and Genesis. But not to worry, true Grateful Dead fans never forget where they came from, and we frequently travel to see Bob Weir’s band, Rat Dog.
Do you ever ask the question, If you had a soundtrack to your life, what would it be? For my dad, and I think for me, the soundtrack would have to include the Grateful Dead. “God way up in heaven / for whatever it was worth / thought he’d have a big old party / thought he’d call it planet earth / don’t worry about tomorrow / lord, you’ll know it when it comes / rock and roll music / meets the shine and rising sun.” Pretty cool, huh?
I know that I have been talking about my dad a lot, and that this essay is supposed to be about why I believe in rock and roll. I believe in the power of music to connect us. Notes, and the space between them, connect all of us. Lyrics bring us together and make concepts like peace, love, and truth seem more real, particularly for teenagers. Watching live music, particularly in those magic moments when the audience and bad meld into one, is exhilarating and makes me feel incredibly alive. I believe in the power of rock and roll to make good things happen and its potential to bring about change in a very scary world.
Rock and roll brought people, thousands of them, together for the love of a common sound. Rock and roll brought my father and me together, too. Rock and roll is a force in this world that can explain emotions and define the indefinable. This, I believe.
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