The power of music is manifest when I can hear a song, even at a lo-fi quality, and the spirit of the song reaches through whatever broadcast medium is delivering it. I distinctly remember the viral video of Paul Potts’ audition on Britain’s Got Talent in 2007 Within seconds of his performance, I and everyone else in the audience was moved. What makes music do that to me?
I discovered this next song because it had the same impact on me, as it came via my car radio in 1997. I was driving my family back home through northern Oklahoma at night. Everyone in the car was asleep and I was moving the tuning knob slowly through the noise to find something to help me stay awake. The only thing that came in clearly was college radio KXZY out of Stillwater. I stopped and listened.
The very next song I heard over the airwaves invoked unexpected emotion as I passed the Perry exit.
I waited, hoping for a song ID, but nothing. And since Shazaam wasn’t invented, I had no immediate chance to find out who it was. So I wrote some key words and phrases that I remembered and put them in my pocket for safe keeping
When I got home, I went to the music department at Barnes&Noble and asked the clerk if she could help me find a song. I thought it might be a long-shot, but after some searching in the database, the title Hippie Boy by Caroline’s Spine appeared. They actually had a copy in the store, so I bought it and continued my investigation at home.
The lyrics are sung in the voice of a disappointed father, who expresses contempt for his son who hasn’t turned out like he wanted:
My hippie boy don’t want to be a man
My hippie boy don’t want to understand
My hippie boy lives in a volkswagon van
The angst felt something like the fury of You Oughta Know by Alanis Morisette released two year prior. Then at 1:58, the guitars escort the father’s disgust and turns it into rage.
My hippie boy won’t get up off his ass
He don’t care if he fail or if he pass
My hippie boy….I know he’s been smoking grass
It was this point in the song that I realized I was being invited into the pain of a young man, not of the father. It was this same pain that I was hearing in many of the college students I was working with at the time. Kids that held deep wounds from their own fathers but didn’t know what to do with it despite their pleading attempts to find love and be accepted.
And he said “come sit beside me
Tell me ’bout the things you adore
And please don’t remind me
That I am not the boy you’d hoped for…”Song: Hippie Boy
Artist: Caroline’s Spine
Released: April 1997
This song made me stop and think about my role as a dad. My kids were 6 and 3 at the time. What would my legacy be to them? Would it be a song like Hippie Boy, where dad didn’t get what he wanted? Or would I rise to a higher place, one of compassion, of listening and showing empathy?
And what could I offer those who aren’t my children, but those who have been mercilessly rejected by their own fathers?
Behavior isn’t the problem. It’s the pain underneath that is provoking it. And fathers have inflicted lots of pain. Address pain and behavior is more easily understood. This awareness changed my perspective.
All because of a song.