How A List of Albums and Patsy Cline Resurrected My Dad

14 Sep 2020

I’ve been working from home for almost 6 months now and as a programmer I spend a lot of time with headphones on listening to music. As such, lately I’ve really been itching for something new for my ears. Thankfully, as a subscriber to his newsletter I stumbled on Austin Kleon’s post about 31 perfect records. It seemed like as good a place as any to start.

This list appealed to me because I’ve always preferred to listen to albums in their entirety instead of mixes or singles. I suppose this comes from growing up in the days of CD players when it was not very easy to make a mix like it was during the cassette days of the 80’s. As much as I love the digitalization of music in terms of being able to access anything I want whenever I want, it has got me listening to music differently. I’m often just shuffling my “Liked” songs or listening to a pre-made playlist. This type of listening can be good at times but it doesn’t bring me the same level of joy that I got from laying in my bed late at night at age 15 listening to Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness in its entirety. Working through this list has brought back some of that joy I remember. Discovering something entirely new 6 songs deep in an album while churning out lines of code in my home office has been the musical jolt I’ve been looking for.

One of the best parts about growing older is how you let go of some of your pre-conceptions and can appreciate things that you may have written off more quickly in your youth. In that vein, The biggest surprise so far has been that my two favorite listens have been country albums! Night Life by Ray Price is incredible and Austin’s description “This is the sound of 3AM” is right on the money. A few days after being pleasantly surprised by Mr. Price I found myself engrossed by Ms. Loretta Lynn on Van Lear Rose which I discoverd was produced by Jack White. First of all, how does a 72 year-old sound so goooood? And who would have thunk what a dynamic duo those two would make?

As I scrolled down Loretta’s vast library of classic country gold, I found that in 1992 she released an album called Loretta Lynn Sing’s Patsy Cline’s Favorites. Patsy Cline. I haven’t thought of that name in years, possibly even decades. I clicked “Play” and within seconds I was sent back in time to the late 1980’s. Sitting in the back of my father’s 1964 Ford Galaxie, ostensibly on our way to one of the local car shows we frequented back then. I can remember the retro-fitted modern radio complete with cassette player and the sounds of Patsy Cline eminating from the single speaker in the back seat while my brother and I moaned: “Ugh..Dad! Turn it off!” I did not like Patsy Cline back then. The music sounded old and boring and it was just not “cool”. Of course, had I known then what I know now, I would have treasured that time and hung on every word that spilled from that chrome speaker…

I stop to see a weepin’ willow
Cryin’ on his pillow
Maybe he’s cryin’ for me

The '64 Galaxie had a chrome speaker in the middle of the back seat. I have fond(?) memories of bashing my head on that speaker when my dad hit the gas pedal hard and sliding around that back seat after I applied too much ArmorAll (at least until my dad finally installed some seat belts)

What I didn’t know was that just a few short years later my father would commit suicide and be gone from our lives forever. I was young, just recently turning 10 years old. Because of my young age I don’t have strong memories of my father. A snapshot of playing catch in the back yard. Him giving me a “swig” of his Budweiser. Cannonballs in the pool that he built for us. Sitting on his shoulders as we meandered the seemingly endless rows of classic cars while the DJ played doo-wop, 60’s surf rock, and classic country…like Patsy Cline.

It’s funny how music has this power to surface memories that were seemingly lost long ago. I may not have many of them but I now know that Patsy will always be able to bring him back to me. I hope dad is smiling somewhere knowing that I finally got around to appreciating her.