The story behind the music
Owen Fitzpatrick returns with a new essay on where good music comes from. Read on to find out why Owen is excited to see “Jersey Boys” this weekend, then check out his thought-provoking letter to Mr. Dickens and his essay on why kids should like Shakespeare.
AN OLD SOUL
My parents call me an old soul. They might be right, because if I talked about the music I love, I wouldn’t be talkin bout my generation. I can go dancing on the ceiling and lose that lovin’ feelin’ quicker than greased lightning in a teenage wasteland. I like listening to all different types of music from classical Chopin to R&B’s superstar Stevie Wonder to my man Billy Joel, U2, Fleetwood Mac, The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, Daft Punk, Chubby Checker, and Hall and Oates. The list is honestly endless. Have you ever seen the rain? I hear there is a Prince who says it is purple. Music frees my soul. I get lost in the music and drift away. I listen to music as I do pretty much everything, including homework and walking down the street. I love Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Sinatra, and I listen to jazz. And yes, I really like Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.
UNLIKELY SUCCESS STORIES
The Four Seasons are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and are one of the best-selling musical groups of all time, having sold an estimated 100 million records worldwide, but, as a band, they are not going to make any top ten lists for most influential musicians of all time. They wouldn’t jump in front of Marley, Madonna, Michael Jackson, The Stones or Hendrix. Music critics would agree with me that they aren’t Chuck Berry, Beethoven or The Beatles, but here they are in a Broadway show asking Sherry, baby, if she can come out tonight. You know… if she’s got any plans.
Every success story has its bumps and curves. Of course, life is imperfect. Knowing where the music stars come from is very important to understanding their music. The great Satchmo, Louis Armstrong, was in juvie when he picked up his iconic horn. Taylor Swift grew up on a 15-acre Christmas tree farm. Kanye West’s parents were divorced when he was three years old. Pink didn’t start making really good music until her marriage was on the rocks. Fergie cleaned herself up after her battle with addiction in her teens and slept in laundry baskets, and interestingly also told us that big girls don’t cry in her song of the same title, which had to be a nod to The Four Seasons’ hit.
Wth or without these connections, a musician’s personal background is revealed in his songs, albums, style and taste in fashion. Music influences lives, as demonstrated in the phrase, “Music is the soundtrack to your life.” In addition to being able to better understand the artists’ music, we feel closer to the artists by knowing about their lives as people, however difficult or challenging.
INSPIRING FUTURE GENERATIONS
I’m looking forward to seeing “Jersey Boys” with my family on Sunday at The Hanover Theatre. From what I’ve read, the story keeps it real, and they all learn to “walk like a man.” The stories of Cobain and Elvis aren’t rainbows, unicorns and daydream believers. Okay. Maybe there’s a palomino and a teddy bear, but I digress. Many musicians, like many people, rise above their troubled past and hit a point in their lives called luck. Luck is where hard work meets opportunity. Some people never get that lucky break and fail to improve their situation. The ones who do get that lucky break inspire us to keep striving to do better and be better.
“Jersey Boys” is the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, who came from nothing, but worked hard and got that lucky break. It should come as no surprise that the “Jersey Boys” were not straight off of the good ship Lollipop, because how boring of a show would that be? We wouldn’t have a show. I’m looking forward to learning how they came to be and if their rise to fame was meteoric or a long, hard climb. Though I suspect the latter. My parents debated taking my brother and me to “Jersey Boys.” My point to them was this: The language is probably nothing worse than we’ve heard on the bus, and the plot lines are probably no worse than we’ve seen in the news. It’s a hard fact, but it’s true. I told them to just let it be, and they could whisper words of wisdom to us during intermission. They’d prefer to sing songs by The Four Seasons with us in the car anyway, rather than keep looking for half of Camila Cabello’s heart in Havana, ooh na-na (ay ay).
Which band will be in the spotlight next as a Broadway musical? Will an Angel of Harlem decide she needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle? Will a Gypsy go her own way after being brought down by a landslide? Who will decide if these stories need to be told and who will write them? Maybe it will be me.