Let it go … and go … and goWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
Literature, theater and film can transport your mind and spirit to other realms and induce intense intellectual engagement, but music is the art form that most effectively grips emotions.
Not many people recite poetry or novel passages in the shower or car, but a song stuck in the head can melt inhibitions and inspire headbanging under the water and on the highway. Not many of us have been caught acting out scenes from our favorite movies, but lots of us have been caught singing and bopping in the car, cubicle or classroom.
I remember one summer day walking around our duplex in Walbridge singing Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” with lusty off-key abandon. As I came around the corner, I faced our neighbor family looking at me with bemused smiles. Too lost in my melody to be appropriately embarrassed, I took a deep breath and kept singing about trailers for sale and rent, ignoring the friendly laughter as it faded behind me.
Many people had far worse childhoods than I did, but mine had its share of abusive and scary moments, which I often dealt with by hiding under headphones and listening to music for hours at a time.
There used to be a Seligman Brothers record store on Sylvania near Douglas, and they specialized in stocking jukeboxes.
When the records returned from the bars, sometimes worn gray in the grooves from thousands of spins, the store would sell them for a quarter. I could walk in there with $2 or $3, spend an hour browsing and walk home with a dozen fairly recent 45s.
When things got nasty or heated on the homefront, I could close the door to my room, put on the huge airplane landing strip headphones held together with duct tape and play record after record, until every note and vocal nuance was etched on my brain. I spent more time with Bob Seger, Billy Joel and The Police in those days than I did with the in-name-only parents who expressed themselves through absence or aggression.
I did not always sing to the music, but I remember one day belting out the drama of — don’t ask me why — “Don’t Cry Out Loud” by Melissa Manchester as it played over the WOHO airwaves. One minute I was belting out the story of how baby cried the day the circus came to town, and the next minute my father was crashing through the door, yelling at me about singing too loud. He tried to pull the headphones from the Realistic stereo but knocked it off the bookshelf to the floor, where its fake wood panel case cracked, silencing it forever and me temporarily.
You may have heard the quote about parenting that cautions kids may not remember what you do or remember what you say, but they will forever remember how you make them feel. The details of that afternoon are lost to me, but that feeling of humiliation and embarrassment — which I did not feel at all in front of neighbors but felt drowned in as the target of my old man’s wrath — associated itself with singing out loud for far too many years. One of my life’s great pleasures was spoiled, and while I got over it eventually, I do not remember giving any more impromptu concerts.
So when my 6-year-old son Sean walks around the house or plays in the backyard, singing “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen” at the top of his little lungs, I may be tempted to hand him a wad of taffy to keep him silent, but I refrain from repeating his grandfather’s mistake.
“Let It Go” is the elementary school national anthem, heard anywhere there are children. I do not know what subliminal commands are buried in the music or the film’s images, but they are powerful mojo. Sean knows every line to the song, and sings it with classmates and family members on a seemingly perpetual, ceaseless, uninterrupted, endless, repeating loop that keeps going on and on and over and over and doesn’t stop and continues and repeats and starts again and refreshes and keeps going, forever and ever, amen.
It’s maddening, like a low, throbbing toothache. But he is so sweet and happy when he sings it; I may shush his volume when it gets to 11, but with Manchester over my shoulder, I never want to make him feel bad about singing or want him to associate such a happy expression with parental consternation. I hope that means that while the beat goes on, the generational beatdowns don’t have to.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and news director of Newsradio 1370 WSPD. Email him at email@example.com.
Tags: "Don't Cry Out Loud'", "King of the Road", "Let it Go", 45s, Billy Joel, Bob Seger, Broadway, childhood, frozen, jukeboxes, Melissa Manchester, Music, Roger Miller, Seligman Brothers, South End, The Police, WOHO