Thinking Back to When I Discovered My Musical Soul…
I honestly don’t know when I fell in love with music.
Quite honestly, I’ve had a very complicated relationship with music. Oh, the stories that I could tell you. One day, I will. In a book. It’ll be a GOOD, glorious read, believe you me.
Now that I think about it…I’ve always loved to beat on things. Pots. Pans. Walls. Handrails. Cabinet doors. My foot. Dashboards. Whatever. It was my thing. It drove my mother crazy. Much to her chagrin though, my Uncle (who I later learned in life was in a nascent-but-many-decades-defunct funk band when he was a kid) bought me practice drum pad and a pair of drumsticks.
You can imagine she was both grateful that I wasn’t fucking up the bottom of her pots any longer, but — the constant beating! “Can I just have one moment of peace, child!?” OH AND I LOVED PLAYING THE TAMBOURINE. Fascinated with it. SO LOUD. SO FUN.
I miss my mother, she was so patient, in hindsight. LOL.
I definitely remember that. THAT’S definitely where it began, at least in a rhythmic, professional sense, LOL.
From there, we church hopped (and denomination hopped) as my mother married, divorced and remarried. So, while my home church was a Black Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, somehow we ended up in a White Apostolic church and some other offshoots, finally ending up at a Black Church of God, which was definitely more like what I was used to.
Growing up initially at the Church of God in Christ, the Pastor’s son played the drums. So, you can imagine, I never got to. It really made me mad, lol. I don’t know if he knows that I thought…we’re still Facebook friends.
Damn, I’m old.
SO — as we moved churches, I got to assert my little manhood and finally got to start playing drums on a regular basis on Sunday mornings. I WAS ECSTATIC. It was like, motherfucking Christmas every Sunday morning.
Be clear — I never EVER liked getting up Sunday morning, early and wasting so much time in church on a weekly basis. Of course, since I was the drummer, I had to be at church more than anyone else in the house.
My mom was committed, but still — I was born in church. As a church musician, you’re there the most but get paid the least, but that’s another story…
Going to church on Sunday mornings was just so fun because sitting behind the drum set made me feel so grown up. So important. Like, “Fuck you, I’m in the band!” *clears throat* I mean, the “fuck you!” came much much later, like into my 30's…
My mother? She wasn’t a musician. As a matter of fact, no one was a hard core musician in my family. I didn’t really have the stereotypical Black family. I now realize I did, but just the Ohio version of it because even though we lived in Portland, OR, apparently we were still country as hell.
Cynthia (my mother) had the most interesting tenor/baritone voice. She didn’t care though, she LOVED to sing. She did her best and she really did keep up, now that I think about it. It was never a contest to her. Singing just made her feel good. It was her way of showing her gratefulness to a God that she felt loved her and took care of her. It was the least she could do, even though that woman did so much. Singing was never a chore though. It was her favorite part, no matter how good or bad she was at it, LOL.
So it used to baffle me how during testimony service (see: a portion of the service where people spontaneously pop-up and “testify” about how good God has been to them that week, how mean the Devil has been and generally be loud and act a fool with permission for a few minutes only. A few people would try to sing and fail or would be successful and whip the church into a grateful frenzy) my mother, who wasn’t a singer, would somehow find her way up to a microphone and ask for her son to come and play the drums for her! She always sang the same 2–3 songs but it never failed — she’d beckon me to the drum set.
Growing up however, my mother didn’t let us listen to ANYTHING but Gospel music. And I mean NOTHING.
I used to sneak and listen to the radio, but the radio in Portland was mostly white Top 40 (and at the time, Top 40 was 90’s Euro-house invading the American airwaves, hence my obsession with dance music now, tbh). That was it but then came high school.
In HS, my step-now-brother and I sneaked over to the record store next door to our church at the time (the irony) and bought our first secular music cassette tapes (OMG I’M SO OLD), and it was glorious.
My first purchase? Deborah Cox’s self-titled debut album (still a favorite, btw). His first purchase? Celly Cel’s album Heat 4 Yo Azz.
Editor’s Note: This story could take a whole other tack about kids, choices, influences and more and where they end up in life but another day…
I think it’s funny how I’m basically still listening to the same types of music — R&B/soul and dance. Oh music, why you so cyclical?!
Minus that however, it wasn’t until college that I somehow absorbed the whole entirety of music history and played catch up on the Devil’s music that still makes me money to this day.
But again — when did I discover my musical soul?
I think it is when as a kid, I got kicked off the drum set.
That’s right, they kicked me off the drum set. See, we went to a new church. There was a drummer, he left, and guess who was available? Me.
This was a nice church too, well known music department, etc. I MADE IT! FINALLY! THE BIG TIME! My mama bought me a REAL drum bag. I had sticks, strings, a key to tune the drum heads — shit, you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t Bernard Purdie, OKAY?
In high school, I made a good friend. This good friend? He was a GREAT drummer. And then, one day…he ended up at my church.
“No hard feelings,” they said, but he was available. So, I got kicked to the choir stand.
Now, I’d sung with the kids choir and stuff like that, but this…was different.
And I was REALLY DECENT at it!
That was what unlocked my musical soul.
Needless to say, Gospel and singing in choirs played (and continues to play) a large part of who I am. From there, I went on to direct a youth choir, sing in a youth choir that sang all over the United States and ultimately to directing the Gospel choir at the University of Southern California, the Saved By Grace Gospel Choir.
I remember at the time, getting kicked off the drums felt like the worst thing ever. All I ever wanted to do was play the drums. I never wanted to sing. I cried. I was mad. My mom was mad for me, LOL.
Change always feels bad but it’s usually for the better.
The musical ear that directing gave me has been invaluable into my decisions as music supervisor and purveyor of fine music that isn’t shitty since…forever.
Between all that, the magic of Disco, choir music that modulated to the rafters during a energetic drive and MICHAEL JACKSON, not only was my musical soul unlocked but it was awoken anew! Pretty much figured that my soul has lived through every musical decade ever, but we’ll save that for another day. The one thing about music, is that it’s always there and it always hits you way down in your soul.
When did you discover your musical soul?