My sweet little girl loved all of it. Every note she heard. She is sitting up on her own now, and when she hears music she rocks back and forth. Literally: my baby rocks! So she sat in my lap while I downloaded album cuts by these psychedelic bands and she rocked every time I played a track. She doesn’t even need a beat: trippy organ is enough to trigger her recognition of music and cause her sway. And the harmonies of the Mamas and the Papas made her smile with delight, as indeed they would any other human being with any kind of appreciation for music.
Listening to the Monterey Pop Festival is to be completely stuck in time. Some of the bands I listed above only existed for a year or two. Jimi Hendrix tells everyone to “dig;” Lou Rawls calls everyone “Jim;” Mama Cass makes jokes about John Lennon; Otis Redding reminds people that Aretha Franklin did not write “Respect;” David Crosby rants about the Kennedy assassination. And everyone raves about The Electric Flag. Ravi Shankar plays an hour of classical Indian music and the crowd of hippies goes nuts. The Byrds ask Hugh Masekela to join them on “So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and Brian Jones introduces Jimi Hendrix and assures the crowd they will like him. The festival was an attempt to capture all of the popular music at the moment and put it in one place (hence the term Pop Festival), and it did – it captured exactly what was popular at that moment in June of 1967, a good bit of which wouldn’t be popular at all in a few years.
But my little girl loved it. I could say that my little girl loves all the music that was popular in America – well, California – or, more specifically, hippie California – exactly forty-three years before she was born. That would be true up to a point, but what would be more true is to say that my little girl loves all music. Later in the evening I played some clips from U2’s performance at the 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concerts in 2009, and she went crazy listening to “Mysterious Ways” mashing into the Black-Eyed Peas’ “Where Is the Love.” She has a stuffed dog that sings “Patty Cake” and “Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” and she gets fussy when she doesn’t hit its belly hard enough to keep it singing. Sometimes she starts rocking to the music played in the background of a TV commercial.
I used to think that I should be proud to instill a sense of good musical taste in my daughter. I wrote a previous blog about how wonderful it was to see her enjoy John Coltrane, and the implication – well, I more than implied it – was that my little girl has good taste. But honestly, she doesn’t have any tastes beyond the fact that she just likes the sound of any kind of music enough to want to physically respond. And you know what? I’m proud of that. For now, her obvious love of the very sound of music is enough. She’s only eight months old; there’s plenty of time to try to improve her tastes in music. And, let’s face it, “good taste” in music is bound to change. There was a moment in 1967 when everyone thought The Electric Flag was it. But now they released no hit singles and were only together for a year and I’ll bet you haven’t even heard of them. And before they became a tragic punchline, there was a moment in 1990 when Milli Vanilli were it. So I can let go of needing my little girl to learn to appreciate the finer things and just rejoice that she loves music. Even if she gets into bad music, her life will still be enriched for this. The blessings of music are rich enough to find you even if all you listen to is Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.
Obviously, I will continue to play the music I love with my little girl – music that I consider to be great. But even if she only rocks out to the beep version of “Three Blind Mice” that plays on her activity chair when she mashes the purple button, I’m thrilled that my little girl has already discovered the primal joys of music.