Sunday, November 07, 2004

"Turn down that music!" My mom yelled into my room. "That noise is terrible!"

"No way, Mom." I was totally rockin’ out. "This is Eddie Van Halen -- the greatest guitar player. Ever."

She narrowed her eyes. "Come with me." My insolence didn’t bother her as much as my ignorance. Stupid 13-year-old brat needed some schoolin’.

She took me downstairs to the cabinets in the den, which were filled with her old blues vinyls. She rifled through the collection, handing me album after album. "Here. Muddy Waters, Josh White, BB King, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Howlin’ Wolf. Leadbelly… Robert Johnson!"

I was told to listen to these -- at a respectable volume -- and then get back to her. She was right. These guys were amazing, and without them there would be none of that infernal rock music (which of course I still think is still great). And my love of the blues has grown since then. When I went to college, I wound up DJing a blues radio show -- it actually had a large audience, even off-campus, as one of New York’s premiere alternative stations.

But I digress.

Actually, the point of this intro is to mention how my mother was the one who got me into another blues artist -- not a guitar player, but a legend nonetheless: Ray Charles. His records got heavy rotation in our household. My sister used to cry at his bluesier songs. I had heard his hits like "Hit the Road, Jack" and "What’d I Say", but learned about other soulful numbers like "Danger Zone", "Outskirts of Town" "Sticks and Stones" and "But on the Other Hand Baby", thanks to my mom.

I got to repay her a little bit by taking the family to see the movie Ray yesterday. It was well-done, Jamie Foxx was phenomenal and the music fantastic. Had some story problems… but I think most biopics do.

I wonder if they made a biopic about my life, if it would be interesting at all. Well, it would require a lot of embellishments. And we might have to edit out some parts. Especially when I digress. "2004: Michael sits in a front of a computer, blogging his brains out…"

But actually, the good thing about blogging is it helps me relive stuff that happened in my past, for whatever those moments are worth. Like my early lesson about great music.

Other events are so hazy. I vaguely remember my family driving together onto this large estate on Long Island, and they wouldn’t tell me where we were going or why. Then I saw the sign for "Ray Charles in concert" and was ecstatic. I know it was an outdoor venue and a great show. But when was it? Where did we go? My mom said it was when I got back from England, which was in the summer, but I thought it was a surprise birthday present to me, and that’s in April. Mom also insisted it was at Old Westbury, but my sister and I think it was elsewhere, maybe at the old home of Teddy Roosevelt. Were we mixing up this and a school field trip? Did it really matter?

Yeah, it did. How am I gonna blog this accurately? And this just means more work for the researchers of MakeMineMike: the Movie.

Of course, we could just distort the truth a little for dramatic effect. If I were to use the Ray Charles influence in my biopic, I’d borrow some moments from when my sister saw him in concert at another time.

She got to go backstage and meet the man. I asked her how she managed that; tell me more about it… and she didn’t remember. Sheesh. I recalled it better than her.

From what she had told me back at the time: Her friends were all complimenting him, and my sister added, "Yeah, you taught me how to do the Twist."

"Oh yeah," my sister said when I brought it up. "The record was called ‘Do the Twist with Ray Charles’ and it had the little footsteps diagram on it."

But she didn’t remember what he said when she told him that. Maybe she didn’t think much of it, but it would’ve been a memorable moment in my life if the great Ray Charles swayed his body and gave me that big grin as he said, "Well, now, that’s great, babe."

Maybe I’d put that somewhere in the second reel.


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