Music has been my nanny, friend and lover since a very young age. One of my first memories is both traumatic and incredibly silly, and has a lot to do, I think, with why music is important to me and the complex relationship I have with it.
When I turned five I got a radio/cassette player for my birthday, along with the tape of the soundtrack to the movie La Bamba. The song La Bamba was one of my favorites (that riff! That exotic Spanish! So fun!). The day after my birthday I spent a good few hours on my front porch, the antenna of the radio pulled up as my microphone, listening to, dancing and singing along with, La Bamba. On repeat. For two or three hours.
We lived in a house on a cul de sac at the bottom of a street that wound down a hill.
Towards the end of my concert, I saw two men in white shirts slowly making their way down that hill towards our house, stopping at each door on the way. As they walked between houses they were watching me. (Notice if you will, the similarity between this and the stalking in my vision of In The Hall of the Mountain King). But I kept singing and dancing and rewinding.
The closer they got the more they stared. Finally they left the house next to mine and were headed to my door (like all good Witnesses, walking the paved path back to the street, not cutting thru the grass). And as they came towards me they were smiling. They were laughing.
Now I’ll grant you that in retrospect, a 5 year old white kid shaking his booty to La Bamba and singing “babababalabamba” at the top of his lungs is pretty effing cute and probably deservers a good hard laugh. But these guys were strangers and they were laughing at my concert. The five year old me did not take this well. I immediately broke into sobs and ran inside with my radio, screaming for mommy.
I don’t think my mom wanted to talk with them anyway, and them breaking the heart of her little birthday boy didn’t go over well. Shall we say their visit to my home was not successful that day?
After that, for the longest time, I was terrified to sing in public, or even to sing. I put all my music interests into instruments. And though I wrote songs throughout high school I never sang them. Singing has always been something I wanted to do, but I’ve had to force myself into nervewrecking situations to do it (even today I need at least three quick shots before I’ll put in for karaoke). I sing at home all the time, and am getting a bit more comfortable.
But those effing Witnesses. I coulda been an American Idol.