My father loved music, and I remember that most of it was music that I didn’t particularly like. Left to his own devices, he would be playing Opera, Classical, Fiddler on the Roof in Hebrew, tone-poems and the volume of Sound Effects that included the humming sounds of hospital instruments. I was more into the Beatles and the Top 40. (We briefly aligned in our love to hate “A Fifth of Beethoven” in 1976).  

Because someone who was not me chose Saturday AM as a divorce-visitation period (when it was clearly meant for watching cartoons), there followed a series of hours-long car dates that at best were awkward and at worst fraught with the silence and frustrated emotions. Luckily for us both, his two-toned Oldsmobile Cutlass Cierra (“hydro-matic”) had a cassette player, and I realized that being armed with a tape was a survival necessity. Independently, he must have also come to this conclusion because trips to Record World (and the Record Shops at TSS) started to be a regular feature of our time together. 

Though he continued to try to make me a fan of Chamber music, and I tried to sell him on the benefits of Kiss, we eventually settled on some music we could both live with. This week to honor him, I created a tiny playlist of five songs (below) that I wanted to write about, since they were funny songs that really captured our attention and imagination, in a way that allowed us to find some joy and togetherness in an otherwise grim aftermath of a divorce.  

If you have Apple Music, you can listen here: Apple Music Playlist if not, you can listen via YouTube links, below.

“Put Him Away” From the Broadway Soundtrack of Two by Two, starring Danny Kaye. 

After Noah tells his children that God has commanded him to build a boat for all the animals, Noah’s children have a meeting to discuss committing him. I think the idea of biblical characters having a ‘modern’ conversation about someone being crackers really tickled him.

A Very Strange Medley Barry Manilow, Live at the Uris Theatre, NY

If you were alive in the 70s and had a radio or television, this was the soundtrack. Modern listeners will know all these products, but they might only recognize the “State Farm” theme, recently revitalized by the insurance company. As a bonus, you can watch this version (different from the one on the record, above) which features 70s clothing and haircuts in all their glory.

Fish Heads Barnes & Barnes

I remember my father being absolutely arrested by this song when I played it for him. I don’t know if it’s because he liked the song, or because he needed to find those responsible and have them committed to a Psychiatric ward.  Warning: listen to it once, and you will never get it out of your head.

I Hold Your Hand in Mine Tom Lehrer

My parents’ pile of Tom Lehrer records was among my earliest memories of exposure to satire and adult comedy material. I think it’s fair to say that this song today would not just be received as creepy but perhaps even banned for its banal description of a romance by a murderous sociopath. If you can get by that, it’s really quite funny. 

Rocky Raccoon The Beatles
Not really even the funniest of the Beatles songs (“You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” wins that one) but a song special to me and my father because of its silly lyrics (“Her name was McGil, and she called herself “Lil” but everyone knew her as Nancy”) and jaunty piano breaks, wherein my five or six year old self would be made to dance a sort of puppet-on-strings dance, which always made me collapse (in a corner) with laughter.

Throughout the late 70s and 80s we continued trying to find music to listen to together, always trying to avoid a crying jag from landing on a Mawkish “Long and Winding Road” instead of a detestable “Pac-Man Fever.” He was briefly obsessed with the song “Love is Like Oxygen,” by Sweet, which was going to be the opening song to a rock musical about addiction he was going to stage, if he ever got done writing up his patient notes and reading all the new medical journals published since 1987.  

Amazingly, this morning as I was doing an errand and considering that two years have passed since his death, I heard the song he wanted as the closing song in his addiction musical, called “Hooked on a Feeling,” by BJ Thomas.  That song was a big hit, but because of my father’s love of absurdism (which I inherited), he wanted the Blue Suede version, which inexplicably placed a never-ending chant of  “Ooga-Chackas”  behind the Swedish band’s cover version. Our lifelong music exchange continued until the very end of his life, when I continued to bombard him with all the CDS I have written about here and he begged me to stop.  

As to missing him today, I guess I will quote the song he chose for today: 

“I got it bad for you girl, but I don’t need a cure

I’ll just stay addicted and hope I can endure.” 

Miss you Dad!