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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Guest Post: The iTune-al Struggle

DJ was born and raised in Salt Lake City, and has learned everything about other states and countries from TV and returned missionary reports. He is a proud father of four and husband of one and convincingly portrays someone who knows what he is doing.

I have found myself fighting an internal struggle with my teenage daughters’ music. She isn’t listening to explicit lyrics or death metal, but most music seems so suggestive now. What kind of a father am I if I allow bad music in our home? I found my answer, and we only have to flash back 25 years . . .

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s you were literally imprisoned by your parent’s music collection. There was no iTunes, internet radio, mp3’s to pass around or cds to easily copy and share. I was stuck with The Moody Blues, Neil Diamond, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and an album with Barbara Streisand in her underwear and a superman shirt if I remember right. With the exception of Streisand, not a bad bunch of cellmates.

As I grew up and went through elementary school, there was a jail break. Of course I had the Mormon Rap and Bart Simpson’s debut album, and I would have agreed to do anything to spend one day with Weird Al Yankovich, but there was something else calling to me. My cousin showed me the answer with what looked at the time like a very disturbing, evil collection of music. Men in women’s clothes, men with women’s hair do’s, men in make-up – and they looked . . . manly. Poison, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Metallica and Quiet Riot were shamefully hidden under my bed in some dark, twisted congical visit. Thankfully my dad was so old school that the thought of dressing like these neon queens of debauchery never crossed my mind. And as I look back now I wonder – were my parents more disappointed by the sneaked hair metal or the out in the open New Kids on the Block tapes?

I started to feel the oppression of being middle class and white in junior high. An older neighbor slipped me a copy of The Beastie Boys on a hot pink and yellow TDK cassette and it just spoke to me. I did have to fight for my right to party! Slow and Low was the tempo! I knew better from my upbringing, but I still defiantly shouted Parents Just Don’t Understand! Mama said knock you out! As the bill of my hat slowly started to find the back of my head, and my pants were losing the war with gravity, I was becoming calloused to the looks of disapproval from my parents.

High school came just in time to finalize my probation from cheese filled rockers and disrespecting rappers. High school brought apathy and indifference. Flannel and Tevas. Goth and depression. I was finally old enough to understand what the world was going through. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and The Cranberries were illuminating the evils of the world. The Cure, Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode were darkening everyone’s wardrobe, yet providing anthems of lost love . . . and something with animals and dead man’s parties. My parents had a strict no explicit lyrics aloud in the house rule. But I was above that. That was until I came home and found my Tool, White Zombie, Ice Cube, Run DMC and countless other explicit cds missing. If only Greywhale and Media Play offered discounts to poor disaffected youth purchasing albums for the 2nd and 3rd time due to parents with standards.

Once you are paroled from school and home, you find something out about yourself: a lot of the music you listened to growing up was you trying to fit in somewhere. It’s not a bad thing, and in most cases it actually helps sharpen and refine your taste. But from age twenty-one on I found myself digging back through all the garbage to find Billy Joel, Elton John, Zeppelin, The Moody Blues, Journey and CSNY. There was even room for upbeat one hit wonders on the car rides to work. After wading through the muck, Pearl Jam and a few others survived the ride. But it took almost two decades to discover what makes music great.

Sharing music with other people is amazing. When you choose hateful or even vulgar music, not everyone can join in, or wants to. In 15 or 20 years you’re not going to whip out your NWA CD to show your daughter or proudly display the classic tracks from Dr. Dre’s Tha Chronic. There isn’t going to be a bonding session around the finer points of Eminem’s greatest hits or a memory of your family driving while on vacation with Slayer playing in the background. The most enjoyable car rides and dinners are when the younger kids bust out I am a Child of God or Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree. Those are moments when you genuinely feel on track and secure in your decisions.

So what led to this internal struggle? Even after all these years, if you dig through my parents’ iTunes library or record collection you won’t find anything questionable. I dug through my collection and questioned myself. Most of the distracting and explicit music had somehow hitched a ride through the decades. How could I delete all of these tracks? These tracks are the ones that shaped my taste and forged my knowledge of music! Granted I haven’t listened to them in years, but they still molded what I consider a very well-rounded database of music. I know what 70’s or 80’s song the new hip-hop song is sampling. I know that you aren’t listening to a cool new song but in fact a cover most people haven’t heard of or remember. I know what band did it first and who did it better.

Sadly, all of that is pointless if my kids dig through my collection and think that it is okay to listen to solely because I own it. Yes, I found my eternal wife and have taught Sunday school and priesthood classes. Yes, I have to wear at least two shirts for the rest of my life. But the feeling of knowing I contributed a fork in the wrong direction on one of my kid’s paths is not worth knowing who the Notorious B.I.G. sampled. I know I always found my way back due to my parent’s example. So whatever path my kids take I will leave the same example in our home. Even if it killed me.

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