Ga Ga (No, not the Lady)

I’ve been binge-watching “Casual” while tidying up the house this morning. A cover of Queen’s Radio Ga Ga cut into a scene and brought a flash of memory. Such was the pull of it, I had to pause and go in search of an original version.

Ah, Freddie.  I didn’t experience his voice until the mid-80’s. My musical memories of the time? Hiding (yes, hiding) to listen to this kind of music, as it was verboten in our world. It was the music of the devil (which devil, I never quite understood). I wonder if my brother remembers how we’d listen quietly in his basement bedroom… where concrete walls met slabs of wood cut from our property and milled through our father’s small sawmill. I wonder if his memories come in flashes like mine… recalling the boom-box and our attempts to capture our favorite songs as they played on the radio… fingers poised on the PAUSE and RECORD buttons hoping to catch the entire song without the pesky voice of Casey Kasem introducing it or a commercial following it.

I talk in class about Freddie Mercury and his death – which came too soon and was far too horrible. We talk about the constraints that organized religion places on us, who we love, and how. I am struck this morning – cue a bit of existential crisis – about how much has changed in my lifetime and yet, how very little is truly different.

I watch technology develop and spread exponentially and am thrilled by it.  This morning, when I wish to hear Freddie Mercury’s voice? A few keystrokes are all that separate me from a video of his live performance more than thirty years ago. The days of mix tapes have given way to downloading.

cacaWe can edit music and videos on our handheld phones to produce studio-worthy  masterpieces of sight and sound.  It is a good time to be a consumer of art – even if we must wade through so much trash to find it.  The story goes that term “Radio GaGa” was inspired by Roger Taylor‘s child who referred to a song as “ca-ca” once. Oh, there’s a fair amount of ca-ca out there still 😉

Changes. Lots of changes… and yet… so much remains the same.

I watch as my students struggle with the same dilemmas I faced with my brother all those years ago. They – like us – want to live their own life. They have parents and professors, peers and pastors who box and bind them (that’s far too much alliteration for a Saturday morning, sorry ’bout that).  Youth always struggles with societal expectations as it sheds skin after skin in awkward growth to adulthood.

Some of us choose to hide in the basement listening to the devil’s music (or playing D&D… such rebels, we were).

Some of us hide who we are for fear of real and imagined consequences.

Some of us are far more resolute much earlier. We stake our claim to life -unapologetically- consequences be damned.

These things remain the same: We are bred and trained to be someONE by tribes and buffalo rdfamilies not of our choosing. We do not choose which society we are born into or when. We’re tossed dead-center like a bulls-eye into a real-life Bronfenbrenner diagram before we even know what an ecological system is.

We grow or stagnate. We agree or disagree. We capitulate or fight. We may compromise or we may realize that some compromises are too soul-crushing to even consider. Some of us spend far too much time looking at the road away from home before we dare to pack our bags to search for another. I did… this road, in fact.

I miss mix tapes. Freddie mourned the death of radio. My father clung to record albums. My great-grandparents likely groused about people listening to music on machines rather than gathering around actual music instruments to create it.  What will those born today mourn? Who knows.  It is the familiar that we miss… regardless of its form du jour .  My students will likely never understand why I wish to hold a book with paper pages… and their children will likely never quite get it when they grow nostalgic for the small, glowing screens of their cell phones.

The music remains… the passion remains. The hunger to create and desire to share that which we create? That remains. We use words and music and art to share all that is human… the good, bad, and ugly.  We love – as we live – sometimes quietly in dark rooms… other times fiercely… out loud… in the brightest light of day.

There is no real point in all of this,
I suppose,
except to say:
I see you.

I see your passion for life and your struggle to best live that life. I watch – with fascination and delight – some of the stuff you do – and the ways in which you do it.  I wince as you make some of the same mistakes I made. I wish there was an easier way to learn, but we’ve all been there, done that. You’ll make beautiful brush-strokes in life and you’ll scrap some canvases to start anew.  I see myself in students, sure, but often I see you behaving in ways so unlike mine at your age. I envy your bold dance moves across life’s stage.

We share – this place and this time – with wonderful soundtracks playing across the messy business of life and learning.  I give you Freddie and you share your favorite artists with me. I see you. I hear you.


Some of the wonderful music students have shared with me recently:


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