A few years ago, I read that Don Henley used to make final decisions on The Eagles’ recordings after listening to them in the car because he thought that how they sounded on the road was a true test of their quality. Love or hate The Eagles, I always thought he was sort of a genius for doing this, considering most people would have heard their new material for the first time on the radio.
In the car was where most of my initial exposure to popular music took place, period. As a kid, I spent a lot of time listening to the local alternative rock station, MIX 100.5, riding around with my mom on trips to and from Wegmans each Friday and then wherever else in between.
My seat was a little luxurious because it had a cup holder, a small glove compartment and even a dial to adjust the air conditioning. First class. My sister kind of got the shaft because she had to settle for the seat by the sliding door and there were no perks to that side, except maybe the option to escape, but I can’t help that I was born first. It made it fairly easy to call dibs.
Anyway, like I said, we spent a lot of time in that delightfully ugly Ford Windstar. Luckily my mom has good taste in music and I didn’t grow up tortured by the likes of Tony Bennett and Barbra Streisand but rather serenaded – if you can even say that – by the likes of R.E.M. and Pearl Jam.
Sugar Ray, Alanis Morissette, Hootie & the Blowfish, Blues Traveler, the Goo Goo Dolls. It was a smorgasbord, for sure. A pretty good one, though.
We don’t own that vehicle anymore, but I’ll continue to listen to and enjoy a lot of that music for the rest of my life. So much of it is timeless, to me anyway. And even though relistening to their music makes those memories a little less of a blur, with each artist who passes away or band that breaks up, those days of riding around with my mom and sister feel a little further away.
I can distinctly remember listening to “Dreams” by The Cranberries many times in that honkin’ jukebox on wheels, and now the lead singer, Dolores O’Riordan, just recently passed away. It’s not like I’m one of their biggest fans, but I loved that song and finding out that another familiar voice from my childhood was gone was just sad, really.
Chris Cornell’s was another voice that I grew up with, at first by the simple fact that I had no control over the dial and then by choice. His death earlier this year came as a shock, to say the least. It came less than a year and a half after Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, another band that was constantly on the radio, passed away from a drug overdose. And sure, some of these people probably wouldn’t have made the greatest role models for a 5-year-old, but you’re too young to understand any of that when you’re 5. I didn’t even know any of their names until several years later. I just recognized their voices as part of the jukebox-on-wheels soundtrack.
The Dave Matthews Band was another band that made a lot of contributions to that soundtrack, but with violinist Boyd Tinsley stepping away from the band last week, reducing the number of original members to three, it’s just becoming a shell of its former self and hard to watch. It’s fair to say that original saxophonist LeRoi Moore’s death in 2009 was already the end, but now it’s just undeniable, and that’s coming from a pretty big fan who washed a lot of dishes and cut a lot of grass to pay for concert tickets as a high-schooler.
I wouldn’t invest in Kleenex stock just because the freakin’ Dave Matthews Band may be coming to an end relatively soon, but it’s a bummer that as I got older, all those artists did too. And then they died. Or got replaced.