There’s a video going around of a father capturing his 4-year-old son Jackson crying at a song for the first time. It’s an incredibly sweet and special moment, though I will admit that I am glad camera phones and YouTube didn’t exist when I had my first song cry.
I was 6 or 7 when my teenage brother sat me down in his room, told me what he thought the song was about, and played Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for me. I cried and cried and just kept saying “this is so sad. this is so sad.” At least for the first 20 minutes of the song.
My brother was my musical Oracle growing up. Everything he loved and listened to, I loved and listened to. With that came the bad (I knew every Motley Crue song and had a pretty powerful crush on bassist Nikki Sixx) but also the good. 1 1/2 of my brother’s cassette tapes stolen by young Me provided the staples of my youth: Public Enemy’s album Fear of a Black Planet, and Led Zeppelin I which was confined to one side of a recordable cassette tape, which boasted who knows what on the other side because fuck that side of the tape Led Zeppelin rules.
Many musical lessons were instilled in me by my brother before he left home for college. In his last two years of high school, he often babysat me during the summers on the condition, set by my parents, that he ensure that I practiced the piano and the cello. While the weight of this obligation often led to well-negotiated side agreements (“Okay, you can watch Terminator with me if you don’t tell Ma and Daddy, and I won’t tell them you didn’t practice your cello today”) as well as a diet largely consisting of white bread, mayonnaise and Canadian Bacon microwaved until it turned black, for the times I did practice, my brother often joined me–sitting beside me on the piano stool and explaining to me the importance of the emotional component of music. If you don’t play with your heart, he told me (and I am not making up that a 17 year old boy said this), no one will really care if you get all of the notes right. I was young and impressionable, in awe of my brother, and these words never left me.
These are the memories that flood me watching this sweet little video of Jackson. The moment perfectly captures not only the powerful impact music can have on a person, but also a child’s total willingness to accept it.