When I was nine, I discovered one of my brother’s CDs stashed away in the stereo cabinet. The CD was Nirvana’s “Unplugged in New York”. I had never heard rock music before; this new music was a revelation to me. I had grown up on a strict diet of church music and classical; my father has spent almost forty years playing trumpet for a local opera company. My dad brought my siblings and me along with him to rehearsals; the sound of the orchestra would lull me to sleep in the red velvet seats of the empty opera house. I thought of classical music as being like the air we breathe; regular and predictable.
But this new music; I was enthralled. I listened to that CD in private over and over again. My favorite song was “Lake Of Fire” --- where do the bad folks go when they die? / That don’t go to heaven where the angels fly. Kurt Cobain’s voice was raspy and intense, the deep bass rooting the song in earth-bound gravity. The trill of the guitar was a direct homage to the wings of flying angels.
I suppose that preference was an indication of where I was going to end up someday --- burning in a lake of fire. Or the song “Jesus Don’t Want Me For a Sunbeam”. Which, at the time, I already thought Jesus didn’t want me for a Sunbeam. I was a child who, even at the age of nine, felt insecure about my ability to be loved by God; all of my little nine-year old sins haunted me. I was the youngest child, lost among her six older siblings. My mother was overworked and exhausted; I grew up in a vacuum of parental oversight. The barren landscape of my child-hood caused me to act out in ways that ended up filling me with guilt and remorse.
I told my dad about the band Nirvana one day on the way home from church. My dad’s reply was that the music was sinful --- “One of the members of the Rolling Stones said that his job was to lead the youth into sin.” he said. We were in the car; I was sitting in the backseat, my father in the driver’s seat. His resolute back brooked no argument. I didn’t care about what some stupid member of some stupid band had said; what did that have to do with my Nirvana? I was stubborn and tried to argue back but my father is never one to brook dissension; for that moment, he had the last word.
I never gave up on rock music; I listened to the music in secret, never discussing my music preferences with my father. Nirvana was the first but others followed. As a good Mormon girl I stayed away from Marilyn Manson; there was a lot of talk in Church about the evils of his music. But I explored others; eventually I discovered Jimi Hendrix. An entire world opened up; there was no turning away from Jimi Hendrix or the music that followed. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mississippi John Hurt, Don Edwards, Mark Knopfler, Metallica --- I was hooked by the range and depth of their emotions, by the flexibility and intensity of the music.