The Art Of My Life

I have always the mindset that there are two universal languages; Food and Music.

Heck, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow even wrote “Music is the universal language of all Mankind”.

Think about it. Think about all the emotions you feel while listening to music. Music can make you happy. It can make you sad. It can make you laugh, mad or cry. It can empower you or tear you down. It can motivate, it can make you feel invincible. It can make you feel week or strong. Music has the power to love and can give you the strength to hate. It can even help one deal with grief. Music can comfort you. Music can transport you.

How amazing is that? Music has the power to make all of us feel all these things. Just through notes, sounds, beats and words.

Yet, for me, growing up, it was a horrible forbidden thing.

Yes, my first memories involved music. I remember sitting in the back seat of my dad’s car listening to the Bee Gees or Elvis on the 8 track. Or my sisters spinning records by Lionel Richie, Donna Summer, The Jackson 5, The Pointer Sisters, Air Supply, Kool and The Gang, early Michael Jackson and even Menudo.

My mother would listen to the radio and sing songs from Julio Iglesias, “El Puma” Jose Luis Rodriguez. My brothers would listen to everything from Janis Joplin, the Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix, to LL Cool J, MC Search, Grand Master Flash, and even the Purple One Himself, the one and only Prince.

All that changed, when my parents suddenly, and without asking me, became religious. Before I knew it, music was banned and against this religion that was ultimately shoved down my throat before I knew better and started to rebel.

Which is kind of funny when you think about it. All religions use music as a way of praising or an affirmation of faith for whatever God one believes in. my father told me that music came from the devil and was a tool to worship him. Considering my first musical concert was to see Menudo, maybe dad was on to something.

Yet I would talk to the other kids in church and they would ask me questions about music. Questions along the lines of “Are you down with OPP?” or, “Have you heard of ‘Under The Bridge’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers?” or, “Have you heard the song ‘Loser’ by Beck?”.

Before I knew it, I became that kid with that bright yellow Sony Walkman trying to listen to anything. I became consumed with this thing that was supposedly forbidden. So, forbidden I had to hide the fact I was no going against said religion from my father.

Ever since I got the Walkman (A gift from my mother), my mom knew what I was up to. She didn’t exactly approve, but she understood. I remember on car rides, listening to Michael Jackson on the radio, headphones on of course, and my dad asking me what I was listening to. Luckily for me, the Yankees were playing that afternoon, so I lied and told him that I was listening to the Yankee game.

My dad was evolving to this religious nut. To the point we now had a new state of the art stereo system with a dual tape deck, with multi speed recording. My dad started using this as a means to record sermons and hymns from church and make copies. All this cost was part of my future college tuition.

Was I upset? Maybe. But I did swipe a couple of this 90-minute Sony cassette tapes and started recording songs on the radio. In NYC there were two main radio stations; Z100 and now defunct 92.3 K-Rock. It was during this time, I discovered Grunge and Rock Music.

Soon I had tapes of songs from bands like Temple of the Dog, Soul Asylum, Sublime, and the Beastie Boys. I never did find out if my dad ever realized there were now about 20-30 cassette tapes missing.

By the time I hit high school, I had a backpack full of tapes with cracked cases full of songs. I kept them in my Jansport to keep my father from finding them. Also, at that time, little to my knowledge there was this new-found way to listen to music called a Compact Disc. Also, I found out there was a plethora of music I was missing.

I knew there was no way my parents would spring hundreds of bucks on a CD player for me. So I did the only logical option I knew of at the time. I traded my prized Sega Game Gear handheld system and a few games to a classmate for his Aiwa anti-skip portable CD player! I still stay I won that deal!

Now all I needed was a CD!

Everyone remembers their first. It’s a special moment in anyone’s life. I made mine a mission. It was going to go down after dismissal. I would run down to the Nobody Beats the Wiz on Union Square, go into the music section and look for that glorious blue cover and spend my allowance money. Yes, my first was the self-titled Collective Soul album.

Just like a first kiss, I still remember the fireworks I experienced when I popped that CD in and started listening to the what has become one of my all-time favorite songs “The World I know”. I felt free. Like a weight was lifted off my shoulders as I read along with the liner notes.

Shortly after I heard a song on Z100 called “Satellite” by a band called The Dave Matthews Band. I was instantly hooked to their infectious sound. Under the Table and Dreaming became the second album in my collection.

Then one day, a classmate of mine told me about this group I really needed to hear. That they had this one song “Lithium” that would really get me going. Again, I spend my allowance on a blue album with a naked baby in the picture. I was introduced to splendor that was Nirvana. On my train ride home, I popped the CD in, closed the lid, and pressed play. I was blown away. I was instantly hooked. Funny story, I loved the track “In Bloom” more than I did “Lithium”.
Before I knew it, I had a collection of CDs in my backpack. So much so, that I kept my textbooks in my locker instead of my bag simply because there was no room. Remember, I was still hiding my secret love of music from my father.

Every Saturday I would follow my mom and dad like the obedient son I was and went to church. I sang hymns, prayed, even preached to the fellow youth. As I became older, I became more and more disinterested in the church. My mind started to ask questions and I started in turn questioning said religion.

In church I felt out of place. The gossiping congregation made my feel uneasy. My dad’s constant eyes, and words and voice ever disapproving of anything, drilling into my skull that all things from Music, to Movies, to TV shows, to certain girls I liked were the devils doing.
I started to feel a battle rage inside of me. A battle to please my father, and a battle to be myself.
Music gave me the sense of freedom, a sense of self that I never felt at the time. I needed more of it. It was my drug, my addiction and my salvation. It was my rebellion.

There were times friends and I would cut school and head to the village. There was once a magical store called Tower Records. It was heaven for someone like me. When we weren’t at Tower Records, we would be a friend’s house listening to all sorts of music. I even remember hearing Boyz II Men for the first time. Reminded me of the old Motown stuff my sisters listened to back in the day.

By the time I was a senior in high school, my dad blew the last bit of my tuition to by a CD recorder as now he went from tapes to recording sermons and such on CDs. (Lucky for me, I had a plan to make some money anyway and college wasn’t really an option. Yes, that plan was baseball).

I knew this was a new-found way of getting my fix. My friends would lend me their original CD’s and I would take about 5-10 blank CDs at a time (Not too many that my dad would notice) and started copying CD’s. I was copying all types of music.

I became that kid who would write the lyrics to Bone Thugs ‘n Harmony songs trying to figure out what the hell they would say.

Sadly, my dad started to notice something was up with me. He busted into my room one day and caught me playing air guitar to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” that was playing on my TV. A broken TV set later, dad and I were getting pretty into it. My room was ransacked, my stash of music found and tossed into garbage bags. My dad said that he would have to speak to the pastor of the Church, have my entire collection burned and my soul prayed for.
Somehow at the point I felt defeated, but I was at the point where my “baseball hobby” as my mom put it, offered me a way out of the house and make some money in the process to rebuild my collection.

Sadly, that idea, hobby lasted about 6 months due to an injury. Said injury found me back home under my parents roof. Depressed, not knowing where my future was headed, and surgically repaired, I found my solace where it was always been in music.
They say Jesus saves. I’m not sure about that. I know for sure that Music had a major hand in saving me.

Music helped repair me when I felt broken. Gave me the courage to get up out of bed and live my life. Music actually gave me the courage to respond to a internet message from a lady, which I responded to. Over twenty years later, I married said lady.

I went back to school shortly after our courtship began. During one year at college my roommate was the Rock DJ for the school’s radio station. He took me to the radio station for time to time, let me pick out some tunes to play over the air.

I think we were actually one of the first stations in NY to play “One Step Closer” by Linkin Park.
I only spent one year at that school. Then I transferred.

See, here’s the funny thing; sure, I had friends growing up. I had friends in school. I had a couple of friends in that University I spend a year at. However, MUSIC GAVE ME A FAMILY.

Here’s the thing, yeah I had blood relatives, but as you may know life happens and we eventually went our own ways.

However, some bonds you make are stronger than family.

I made said bonds at the new college I was attending. I met this one guy… let’s call him Steve… during a class. Yes, we were those guys sitting in the back of the class. Somehow, we started talking and realized that we had similar tastes. One of which was music.

Music honestly gave me a brother. It was our love and passion for music that bonded us.

Even to this very day, even though life has separated us by many miles, Steve and I would still converse with each other every day. Mostly we talk about life and what’s going on with us that particular day, but the one subject we always come back to is music.

We would send each other videos from new bands we think the other would like. We talk about bands we want to go see. We talk about our favorite songs. It’s really cool to see how long we can go in a day talking about this one subject.

See that’s what’s so amazing about this thing called music. It has the power to unite strangers. Make strangers in to friends, and friends into family. So how can something so power be considered so wrong?

“So, what type of music are you into?”

I get this question a lot. It’s honestly hard to say. Anyone that knows me can tell you I have random taste in music. It’s honestly all over the place.

I love rock music. I love listening to Aerosmith, Linkin Park, Foo Fighters Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, Alterbridge or Breaking Benjamin. I love alternative music like Coldplay and Weezer, and Jimmy Eat World. I love some heavy metal. Metallica, and Hatebreed, and Bad Wolves. I listen to Rap. Eminem, Jay-Z, Nas, and Biggie are some of my favorites. I listen to classic stuff, like Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, Jimmy Hendrix and The Who. I like Pop like Maroon 5 and Imagine Dragons, and Adele and Michele Buble. I even started listening to country music. I can get down with some Thomas Rhett, and Sam Hunt. My all-time favorite band though… so much so I own all their studio albums (Even the bootlegs of their never  before release albums) and so many live albums… DAVE MATTHEWS BAND!!! LONG LIVE DAVE!!!

I have even sat and listened to some of the most beautiful operas and have left stunned.

You know what’s weird though? I can run down lists of different genres of music I listen to, or artist I listen to, and most people give me the death stare when I mention Rock or Heavy Metal music.

Some have even told me I listen to “Devil Music”. I have learned to ignore them, put my headphones in, blast some loud music, give them the “Devil horns” and go about my business.

Whatever it is one listens to, you don’t have to agree with it or even like it, but just think for a moment about what that person is going though. The music they are listening to at that moment can be that person’s salvation.

I have been lucky enough in this life to actually be able to travel to some faraway lands. It always amazes me how though a language barrier, one can sense and convey thoughts, and emotions through notes in a song.

I have even joked around with my friends and told them that once I die, to bury me with my IPOD, ear buds in and the volume turned up. I wanted to party it up with my new neighbors!

Music has the innate ability to unite the world. It really is a universal language.
Think about it. Music is all around us. Why not enjoy?

The best thing about music is that we all don’t have to listen to the same thing, the same genre to enjoy it.
Music is truly a powerful thing. Powerful yet beautiful. Beautiful, and life changing.

Music is essentially life itself. For me, it just so happens that music is a major part of my life. Music is deep rooted in my soul.



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