“We’ve been togther for such a long time, music and me…”
For as long as I can remember, music has been part of my life. I have singing aunts, a horn-playing uncle and a high-knee marching sister. Yours truly is a piano-playing phenom. (I also spent six years playing the cello and a year each on the clarinet and saxophone).
My uncle, Orlando Tyrone Nance (1947-1999), introduced me to marching bands and what would later become my alma mater. He would have celebrated his 65th birthday last week. He was a member of the Marching 100, Florida A&M University’s world-renowned marching band.
My dad was also a saxophonist and was a part of Tuskegee Institute’s Crimson Pipers. My dad is also a true lover of music. Growing up, music was always in the house and often was educational as it was entertaining. An example: my parents used music as a way to illustrate the ugliness of racism. The first time I ever heard the word nigger in a vitirolic context was in Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City.” My parents used– and still use– certain lyrics in a number of ways:
As a caveat: “I don’t know karate, but I know ka-razy!” — James Brown
As a lament: “It’s be’s that-a-way sometimes” — Joe Simon
As a social descriptor: “…Harry Hippie…” –Bobby Womack
As an emotional release: “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here”– DMX
Thanks to my dad, I learned how to decode a James Brown song, how to appreciate the lush arrangements in a Gamble and Huff composition and which rhythms were made for hand-dancing. I learned how a rich baritone could complement the tenderness of a falsetto.
My mom has a pretty eclectic taste too. I vividly remember her singing Prince classics “Raspberry Beret” and “A Love Bizzare” when I was a kid. But she also put me on to artists rarely heard on the radio, such as O.V. Wright and Joe Simon. My brother and one of my favorite cousins introduced me to rap legends such as Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys. I couldn’t have been any more than 7 years old when I asked that cousin what “Public Enemy” meant.
*SIDE NOTE* I used to love arranging my dad’s record collection when I was a kid. (This later turned into a moneymaking venture). That’s when I fell in love with cover art. Incidentally, the first time I saw a bald woman was when I got to the “O” section of the collection, i.e., the Ohio Players’ Pleasure album.
I developed my own musical tastes, having grown up in the video age. I spent a lot of time glued to MTV between 1992 and 2000. If a video aired on MTV during those years, chances are I know the song, artist, album, year it was released… and choreography, if applicable. My musical interests expanded as I began to seriously study piano. My teacher challenged me to learn pieces by Bach and Beethoven, as well as Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton.
To this day, I still I have deep love of music. My iPod has everything from Wham! to Wale. What are you listening to?