Rock the Cradle: Immunizing My Son Against Pop
The first gift I gave my son was music. He was only a few weeks old when my wife asked me to put together some mixed CDs for her middle-of-the-night feeding sessions. Every night after work for a solid week I'd seclude myself in the dormer attic study, meticulously combing through my CD collection in search of tracks that might soothe the boy while also helping my wife get through the night. I threw myself completely into the task. This was during the Middle Ages of music, after the demise of cassettes and vinyl, but before the advent of on-line streaming and playlists. Which is to say it took a while to burn the CDs. I probably spent two to three hours a night up there. But I relished the exercise, eventually burning 12 CDs, nearly 15 hours of music.
Clearly the project became more for me than just compiling a few mixes. It felt like my first opportunity to shape who my son would be—to form his musical tastes. Like the Simpsons episode where Homer falls asleep listening to an instructional French tape and wakes up fluent, I hoped that through my son’s late-night listening, I could subliminally give him a solid foundation in rock ‘n roll and, I dared imagine, immunize him against pop.
I had some early doubts about the idea’s success. Early on, my wife told me that our son seemed disturbed by Dylan’s harmonica solo at the end of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” from Live 1966. Apparently, the high pitch of the harmonica was bothering the boy, causing him to twitch and fuss. She said she had to skip the track. Skip it? It was a crushing blow. I treasure that solo. It is precisely its wailing, piercing pitch, its haunting, other-worldly quality that makes it remarkable. That our son, even at three weeks, couldn't recognize its dark beauty concerned me.
When I reflect back on burning those CDs, it occurs to me that it was the first time I did something for my son that went beyond the basics of feeding or changing a diaper.
I still have those CDs and will give them to my son one day as a keepsake—my first effort to give him a piece of his dad to have and to hold. And one day I may even summon the courage to ask him what he thinks of Dylan’s harmonica solo on “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”
Perhaps the experiment worked: my son’s top ten list at nine years old