Get Rhythm

I cannot imagine what my life would be like without music. I am lucky to have two, very cool, older brothers who are married to my two, very cool, sisters in law. From an early age, my brother, Frank, was a huge influence on my musical development. Frank and Sandy, my sister in law who was his then high school girlfriend, turned me on to rock and roll, starting with Elvis, Gene Vincent, and Chuck Berry, then Jimi Hendrix and beyond. I have been a fan of The Beatles since I was 5 years old; my music room at home is decorated with all my childhood Beatles posters. I like to play music, LOUD, I play bass guitar and piano, I attend as many concerts as possible, and I dance to my favorite tunes every day. Yes, every day! Given all my exposure to music, it should come as no surprise that I have, in a word, rhythm. I actually find it almost impossible to clap or tap my feet off beat. So, it’s no surprise that one of my all time favorite songs is “Get Rhythm” by Johnny Cash. Not only was Johnny Cash a really amazing musician, he was my dad’s favorite singer. I grew up listening to “both kinds of music, country and western” as well as rock and roll, and I’m privileged to have seen Johnny Cash, June Carter, and the Carter Family in concert. The song, “Get Rhythm,” contains some excellent advice that I have tried to adopt as a general life philosophy:

“Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
A jumpy rhythm makes you feel so fine
It’ll shake all the trouble from your worried mind
Get rhythm when you get the blues”

I know it sounds simplistic, but it works, at least for me. When I am tired, stressed, angry, sad, or otherwise not feeling like my usual cheerful self, I play some of my favorite music and, just like Johnny Cash sang, it shakes all the trouble from my worried mind. Try it: Get rhythm!

I share Melissa’s love of music, but unlike her, I’m not sure why. As a young child, I tried playing piano and guitar – neither were a “fit” for me. I had more success playing a large brass instrument, a baritone horn, once known as a euphonium. But, that didn’t last long either. Being a listener of rock and roll, jazz, and other genres, however, has stuck with me. Along the way, I’ve pondered why humans often crave music, or at least rhythms – even primitive cultures often have rhythmic “music.” Think drum beats, the beat of sticks together, and the improvisation of many instruments fashioned from whatever can be found. I’ve seen few of these primitive “concerts” other than on television. I have seen them in the Australian Outback with drumming, didgeridoos and sticks, as well as chanting, a “recital” that included dancing, happily and barefoot on the dusty, red ground. I’ve also seen similar demonstrations by native American groups, who tour and conduct exhibitions. Though these demonstrations were at least, in part, a “show for the tourists,” they seemed authentic depictions of those cultures. And, the participants seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the tourists/observers. There is a saying that music soothes the savage beast, or sometimes, soothes the soul. Whichever it is, music does have a power that is demonstrable in the musicians who perform their music, often, for low payments, and many who give up more traditional “day jobs” to follow their musical dreams. Since Melissa began her bass guitar adventures, we have met many people for whom getting a rhythm was more important than other careers. Clearly, the power is there, and while I don’t fully comprehend it, I will note that it is impossible to think about, worry about, or be stressed when listening to one’s preferred types of music or bands. The head bobbing of RUSH fans at one of their live shows is an example of a near “tribal” rhythm. And, I can attest, it is hard to focus on anything much more than the music, and stage show, when attending such a show. Music is powerful medicine; take it as often as possible.

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