As we clean out Mom’s condo, my brother and I are each taking with us some things that we want. I brought home Mom’s CD collection. I didn’t count her CDs, but they fill three Trader Joe’s paper grocery sacks.
When I was a kid, our home was often filled with her music. At first, Mom used an enormous portable record player, the kind with a hinged lid and built-in speaker that was common in the 1950s and 1960s. Later Dad bought her a component stereo set. She owned a tall stack of vinyl records, and even a number of breakable 78 RPM discs.
Mom listened to the music of her era, of course. She especially liked standards and popular jazz, and was especially a fan of Johnny Mathis. Over the years, I bought her all of his 1950s and 1960s albums on CD. I also found Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, the Ink Spots, and Nat King Cole in her collection.
She also enjoyed a number of rock and pop artists — the Beatles, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Elvis, and Queen. She was an enormous Barry Manilow fan. Holy moly, did she ever own a lot of Barry Manilow CDs.
My brother and I bought her a CD player as a Christmas gift in about 1987. It was a portable player, Walkman style, except it wasn’t an actual Sony because those were super expensive. It was a Sanyo, I think, which was a lot less expensive. We thought she’d wear it around the house and yard while she went about her days. Instead, she figured out how to patch it into her stereo and used it like a full-size player. If we had known, we would have bought her one of those in the first place!
It’s useless to own a CD player when you have no CDs, so we bought her a few discs too. She loved Barry’s 2:00 A.M. Paradise Cafe, a concept album. Imagine Barry in a smoky bar after last call, playing melancholy, spare jazz. It’s a remarkable record, really. Anyway, I had to have it special ordered. I lived in Terre Haute at the time. I bought all of my music at Headstone’s, which was a hippie-era head shop that by that time sold far more music than rolling papers. When it came in, they called: “Jim, your Barely Manenough CD is in.”
My brother and I also influenced Mom’s listening. My brother turned her on to Prince, and she owned a bunch of his music. Through me she came to love Eric Clapton. I took her with me to see him on his blues tour in 1995. It was one of the two or three best concerts I’ve ever been to.
I also turned Mom on to British heavy-metal pioneers Iron Maiden. I didn’t do it on purpose — she heard them in my car and asked about the band, and so I bought her a couple of CDs so she could hear more. I found eight Iron Maiden CDs in her collection, which means she bought more on her own!
I spent some spare time ripping her CDs into my computer, the ones I wanted, anyway. She had a couple dozen classical CDs that didn’t tickle me, and music from a handful of contemporary artists I don’t much enjoy. But now I’m left to listen to the music I did keep, and enjoy the memory of my mom.
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