Richard Edwards on Songs He’s Shared With His Daughter
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The Beatles, “A Day in the Life”
The first morning I got up with my daughter after we brought her home from the hospital, I took her into my little office in our Ukrainian Village apartment and played her the Beatles out of laptop speakers(!). That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? I still have pictures from that morning. When introducing a human person into the world it’s important to give them a stockpile of beauty to get started with. Maybe it’s just to build a case for yourself. ‘Here’s why I brought you into this world, despite all my misgivings as to the morality of doing so. You’ll be faced with lots of trouble while you’re here, it can be a real ugly place. But there will always be the Beatles.’
Biz Markie, “Just a Friend”
The first real expenditure I made on account of my daughter were a pair of VIP front row tickets to Yo Gabba Gabba live. I was on tour and her mother accompanied her. She got to meet Biz. She would stand in her bouncer when that show was on and bounce like a kangaroo. If she heard that theme music play from miles away, she started smiling and swaying. She could neither walk nor talk at the time; it was a wildly foolish purchase. But I still smile when I think about the picture of her mother holding her amongst all the Gabba gang.
T. Rex, “Jeepster”
The first independent musical interest my daughter showcased (aside from whatever was being sung on Yo Gabba Gabba) was T Rex. It was an obsession. She had just learned how to pull herself up and would mouth all of Marc Bolan’s ‘ow, ow, ow’s. It was amazing. We still have video (somewhere) of her using the handful of words in her blossoming vocabulary to collect herself after the record’s needle rose, just long enough to say, ‘Dinosaur T Rex is soooo good.’
The Twilight Singers
Touring became harder and harder as she got bigger. Leaving a tiny baby blob is hard, but leaving a person with whom you’ve fallen head over heels over is much tougher. She cries when the bus pulls away. You cry. You miss her pretty much every second (when you aren’t engaged in the typically debauched band trouble). She and her mother used to come out to California to spend time with her family during the time I hit the West Coast. It was a wonderful way to break up a tour. We’d get to spend some time together before the inevitable Southern slog.
The first time my little girl saw me on tour, her mother rounded the corner with her (she hadn’t told Eleanor they were going to be meeting me). I’d been away maybe a month. When Ellie saw me her eyes saucer-ed, her mouth opened like she had seen a ghost and her whole body convulsed. She dove into my arms. It’s still my favorite memory in life. I was on tour with The Twilight Singers. Their music makes me think of that.
Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”
The first ‘Oh no, my little girl is becoming an actual human girl’ music I remember her getting into was this 1989 Tayor Swift record. She would play the songs in the car and I remember really, really liking a lot of them. They certainly were not improved by subsequent cover versions. It’s a beautiful big pop record, and I was happy she showed it to me. The Suicide Squad soundtrack a year or two later? Not as much.
Kacey Musgraves, “Biscuits”
Early in her mother and my separation I was living in various unseemly locations, attempting to get my bearings as well as a new place to live. As such, many of my daughter and my activities took place out on the town. The first was a concert for a singer that she was into for half a second. She bought a T-shirt that simply read, ‘biscuits’ at the merch table.
Unable to see, I hoisted her onto my shoulders where she remained for the hour-plus show. A very sweet middle-aged woman tapped me on the shoulder with a bottle of water at one point. On our way out, this woman squeezed my forearm and with tears in her eyes said something very sweet about my parenting. I was too taken aback and tongue-tied to tell her how much that meant to me at that particular time, so I just said ‘thank you’ and walked away before I caught her tears.
Weezer, “Pork and Beans”
I liked Weezer when I was a kid. So what? Our second post-divorce show was Weezer, because she loved the song ‘Pork and Beans.’ Well, surprise, surprise, she actually fell in love with the opener, a band called Panic! at the Disco. I saw her inner teenager come out when the singer ripped his shirt off (why do people do that?) and she spent the remainder of the show howling and snapping pictures on the phone. We got a hotel after the show and the next day we played ‘tour’ so she could get an idea what the whole thing is. We ate at Dennys, we tried out guitars at a music store, then we went to Monkey Joe’s, which is somehow nothing and everything like tour.
Randy Newman, “Texas Girl at the Funeral of her Father”
During the hardest times in my life, this song gave me strength. Knowing you have a child who needs you to help them learn how to be a human is a powerful motivator to conquer life’s troubles.
Bob Dylan, “You’re a Big Girl Now”
You probably shouldn’t send your daughter records when your heart is broken. At the beginning of her mother and my separation I sent her vinyl records. We had bought her a record player for Christmas, a few days before the end. This Dylan stuff saw me through some of these hard times, but I suspect it was of less comfort to her.
Rachel Platten, “Fight Song”
Divorce is hard on kids. Duh. Even the tough ones, and mine is tough. This song was what my daughter chose to perform at her school’s talent show. She was rehearsing it at my apartment a couple nights before Manchester. I wrote this on some social media while the attacks were playing across the TV.
“Two nights ago my kiddo pulled her karaoke machine into the living room and for the next two hours sang and danced to pop music. Mostly Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. She spent at least twenty-five minutes of this session on that ‘this is my fight song, take back my life song.’ She didn’t sing to it like it defined her in any superficial sense. She sang it like it was something real deep down in her little soul that had been given voice to by someone else. She closed her eyes and hit all the falsettos. She sang the song like she was grateful someone had given it to her.
“The fact that someone placed bombs full of nails in a concert most probably occupied primarily by little girls with their moms… feeling a connection to music at an age where they don’t yet even have the vocabulary to articulate what kind of catharsis they are experiencing…if mankind vanished from the earth as punishment, it would be justified.”
I love music. I’ve loved seeing my child react to music throughout her life (even the meathead NRA rock she’s tending toward these days). I hope we have many more years of divergent taste to share with one another. I have a lot to learn from her.
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