Seeking to impress our Training Manager with my ingenuity, I recently hit the Google looking for additional resources she could use in her continued efforts to impart to our caregivers the therapeutic value of music.
What I found, I found fascinating, both in terms of the richness of the content I came across as well as in terms of the ease with which a few clicks on a smart phone could take us back several decades into the past. Wikipedia has a page titled List of Billboard Number-one Singles from 1950 to 1958 (other decades are also available). In it are listed, month by month, the biggest selling singles and most played songs in US radio stations. So, for example, if your heart was fixed or broken on September of 1954, it was likely so to the tune of Rosemary Clooney’s Hey There. You can then search that song in YouTube and, sure enough, you will find a radiantly beautiful Mrs Clooney, mirror in hand, offering her advice.
Excited about my discovery, I decided to share it with Mr P. During a prior visit to his house, the sight of a late 19th Century German music box with its well-kept set of thin metal discs in Mr P’s dining room, told me that music was important to him.
As it turned out, after a couple of failed attempts to get my tablet to connect to the Internet, Mr P came to the rescue in classic fashion. He pulled a ten-LP RCA/Reader’s Digest compilation of original recordings by top bands from 1936 to 1945, turned on his amplifier, and with familiar care placed a record on the turntable.
Born in 1930 in Arkansas, Mr P grew up during the Recession, his high school years were marked by the rationing brought about by WWII in the 1940s, and he went to college fulfilling his duties as a Navy reservist first and a boat officer later during the Korean war in the early 1950s. “The Golden Generation”, I remarked, to which he modestly corrected me, “…perhaps the last tail of it.”
With Tommy Dorsey’s, Artie Shaw’s, and Benny Goodman’s orchestras in the background, he spoke about the magic of gathering around the radio to listen to the variety shows, imagining what the faces of those captivating voices would look like. He recalled the anticipation with which couples prepared for the weekend dances to a juke box. Anticipation that took Mr P and his dear late wife to take dance lessons to Buster Brown’s steps. In fact, as a singer herself, it was Mr P’s wife who was the true music lover.
He recounted his months-long travels throughout this vast and beautiful country at the wheel of his motor home and about the time when he and his wife discovered Lake Whitney in one of those trips and later made it their residence after a few repeated visits. Absorbed in conversation we only realized it had rained as I was leaving Mr P’s house a long and very good while later.
I arrived at Mr P’s house with the intention to talk about music. Instead, we inadvertently let music prompt and accompany our thoughts while we talked about other things. As I was driving back to the office, I reflected on how good it felt to have surrendered my morning to a new friend and to the sound of music.
The Discretely column by Eduardo Berdegué is published monthly in newspapers throughout the Heart of Texas region.