Listening to Annie

I’ve been listening to a lot of Annie Lennox lately. When I was younger, I was fascinated by her and that lovely voice she has. Her masculine posturing in “Sweet Dreams are Made of This” (Eurythmics) blew me away. I’ll include one of my favorites as a link below.

My taste in music varies so much. On my XM presets, I have a lot of classic rock stations, but I also have Lithium (because grunge spoke to me), The Bridge and Spectrum (for when I want to slow things down), Deep Tracks (for when I wish I had a joint), and Octane (for when I want to hear what my kids like). I also listen to Tom Petty Radio, which I’m glad is still on, because I didn’t realize how much Tom was a part of my life until he was suddenly gone.

Inspired by my friend Dylan, I’ve started spending a little of that hard-earned money going to live shows again. Next month I’ll be seeing Jack White for the second time (love him!) and then Arcade Fire in July. There truly is nothing as healing for me as a great concert. Or a beach! 🙂

Music is such a huge part of me, ever since I was little. My dad had a Gibson hollow-body, tobacco sunburst finish and mother of pearl inlays, his prized possession, and he often had it in his hands after we finished dinner for the evening. If his guitar was in his hands, it was going to be a good night. No violence, no shouting. Just his rich baritone voice singing out his favorite Hank Williams or Johnny Cash songs. I thought everyone played music, because I was surrounded by people who played.

When I was 12, after much pleading, Dad bought me a piano. He had wanted to teach me guitar, but I was so timid about it. I knew I’d never be as good as him, so I was scared to try.

I took piano lessons for about 6 months, but stopped going after mastering Rhapsody in Blue. What should have happened is for my parents to find me the next teacher who could take me forward, but we didn’t have a lot of money. I kept playing, though. Mom especially liked for me to play “The Entertainer” or anything by Queen. Dad would have liked for me to play country and western. Had my granddad not died so young (at 65 when I was 4), maybe he could have taught me boogie-woogie and ragtime, which he could play with vigor and joy. The whole roomful of cousins and friends would dance.

After my parents divorced, mom and I had nowhere to put the piano, and the divorce was as contentious as the marriage had been. No way were we going to set foot in that house to get my precious instrument. Dad eventually sold it and broke my heart. I played a little in jazz band in high school, but eventually the music stopped for me. I satisfied my musical urges by dating guitar players. Very Oedipal.

As an adult, I thought I would never have music in my life again, but I did eventually buy a piano. While I played Beatles songs, Elton John, and “Memory” (from Cats), my son and his friends would sit outside on the porch swing and listen — something I would find out later. It gave me great joy, but my husband criticized the fact that “always (made) the same mistakes.” I stopped playing almost immediately. When we moved from that nice house into a townhouse, I sold the piano.

Now I have three guitars: a turquoise blue G&L electric, a basic black Fender dreadnought, and a sweet, sweet Taylor 114ce. When I bought myself the Fender, it sat in the case for about a year while I dealt with the breakup of my second marriage, until I took it out one day and scheduled lessons at a local shop. For those lessons, I was crammed into a closet with a teacher who, while very qualified, was into doing things by the book and who thought French gypsy music was the bomb. Because I naturally question everything, I made him nervous and a little tense, I think. I wanted feedback and he just wanted me to play what he wanted me to play.

It was a bad fit, so I stopped going. Then I found the local rock school and found out they taught adult lessons. Because they are geared toward getting you onstage, I found that I was constantly undercutting myself with my incessant perfectionism. I couldn’t get it right and was doing a lot of self-sabotaging. I don’t know why I do that! It isn’t like I haven’t been onstage before. I have sung in talent shows, played in jazz band, and performed with choirs. But playing rock onstage? It’s my longest enduring fantasy. So why do I screw it up? Why do I quit? Because of course I quit. I got a job last summer that had (has) a hellish commute, so that was my out.

I’m thinking of starting up lessons again, now that I am able to work from home a few days a week. Playing guitar is damned hard for me, but it’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to master, since I was a little girl looking up at my dad while he played. Having arthritic fingers and being middle-aged doesn’t make it any easier. Had I just given in and let myself learn as a young girl, I might have taken it somewhere. My life is full of all those “wish I had” moments. Can I do it? I don’t know. I might start playing piano again, because my son has a nice electric keyboard. Last time I attempted to play, my brain and my hands were so disconnected that I got frustrated. As my son reminds me, “You just have to practice. You’ll get it.”

*sigh* Indeed. I think that sums up my life at the moment. I need to just keep practicing. Practicing the guitar (and maybe piano), yes. But also I need to practice letting go of my fear and perfectionism. No one is perfect, but if I don’t keep trying, I’ll always be living with big regrets.

I just have to do this. Put one foot in front of the other. Do the next right thing. God knows there have been a lot of road blocks, speed bumps, and washed out bridges along the way over the last 9 years. Time to get out the map and find a good road. I’ll be sure to take my guitars along.

Peace, Jude

One response to “Listening to Annie”

  1. My oldest brother can play guitar by ear. I never even tried because of that. He also can draw anything by sight. I never attempted that either for the same reason. He never did anything with either of those talents. That pisses me off to no end. How dare he take such a talent and waste it! I love that you are exploring your talents, and I am impressed by your bravery of doing so at this point in your life. I wish you much success with your practice.


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About Me

A writer and solitary soul in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

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