What sort of music was played in your house when you were growing up? What effect, (if any) did it have on your musical tastes?

This question did more than remind me of the kind of music played in our house when I was growing up, but it made me ask some questions about my parents, that time period just after WWII, their relationship, and what effect the Big Bands of the forties and fifties had on them.

My mom was particularly fond of music, and could name the most popular bands, the iconic band leaders, and the singers who expressed that music. She used to tease me that she was really Patti Page, and was living in disguise. She sang a lot (and pretty well) — songs from her teenage and early adult years. She had gone  to college for two years to study music (piano) and so she had almost an innate sense of music, though oddly she didn’t play the piano that often at home after we got one. When she did it was obvious that she was well-trained. (If I could play that well, I think I would spend more time doing it!)

She was a happier person when she listened to her music, and I think I learned a lot about it from her. It made her happy to listen to and sing the old tunes — I think it brought back pleasant memories from her teens and early twenties. She didn’t seem that interested in new music that was coming out — Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers etc., or even the Beatles, but preferred to stay with the crooners. I think the late 30’s and most of the forties were the happiest time of her life, and she kept connected to that time she enjoyed so much.

We both loved old films of the Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers, type; I think I liked them more for the incredible dancing than the actual music, and they made me dream that one day I would dance like that with a handsome, light-on-his feet man who was self-assured and suave and handsome. The musicals reflected a romantic era in film-making with optimism and lightness of heart. I liked that, but was quite ready and willing to switch my allegiance to the new music that was making headway with my peers as the revolution of the 60’s began.

When my mother was moved into a care home when she was suffering from Alzheimer’s, I took in all the Big Band era music I could find in her belongings, and played them at lunch or dinner for all the old folks. You could see recognition or even smiles on some of their faces, even if they couldn’t sing along, or name that tune. Who knows?

Obviously I learned to appreciate the kind of music my parents liked, and the time period in which it was played, and what their lives were like at the end of WWII and GI’s returned to the States.