by Kathryn Tyus-Adair
I’ve been in the film and TV business for more than 20 years, so you’d think the first idea that would pop to mind for a blog would be visual. I’d think that, anyway. But somehow, I’ve gone straight to music. Maybe this is why. See, much like Huggy Bear in Robert Townsend’s “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (hey, I’m not an academic), my life has always had a theme song (though, unlike Huggy Bear, no pimp suit, goldfish bowl platforms or rap sheet).
For me, Elton John’s “Rocket Man” is the soundtrack of childhood summers – specifically their dark endings, with the drive home from the cottage in Michigan and the dreaded destination – another school year in Ohio. I’d listen to that melancholy song on the radio and sadly watch the scenery go by, feeling very, very sorry for myself. Similarly, Will Smith’s “Summertime” is my eternal anthem for the re-emergence of summer – which, no matter where you are, always takes its sweet, friggin’ time. I hear these songs and they’re always accompanied by images and feelings from my past, as if I’m living my life in a film strip.
I think music is a touchstone for life’s most important moments. It’s a marker for the first kiss and the last, for regrets, wishes in vain, celebrations, disappointments. It’s a medium that always delivers, even when it’s bad (no names, we’re bound to disagree). Not surprisingly, music has been totally co-opted by commercials, TV, movies, theater, the web. Been this way forever. Who am I to complain?
In fact, I find it impossible to separate my love of music from my love of visual media. Just ask my kids. Lately, I’ve subjected them to my intervention-worthy, triple-holster approach to watching, well, everything. With Shazam, Spotify and iTunes on-hand, I see it, hear it, catch the necessary details, add it to my playlist and buy it for my iPod. It’s so easy, I barely have to pause “one moment in time” of the Olympics or another twisted turn in ‘Heisenberg’s’ meth exploits.
Having everything I see set to music has rendered me at moments a bad-ass ‘mob wife’ (check out the opening credits for Mob Wives, tell me you don’t hear the call) or a plaintive addict begging to be set free (So You Think You Can Dance — ‘Gravity’). Of course, I’m glad to be neither of those things, but I’m awed that the combined power of a tune and a visual can evoke such empathy and appreciation.
Now I’m guessing my kids will tell you our regular “discussions” about music drive them nuts. Pshaw! Don’t believe it. Just ask them how so many of those ‘topics’ have ended up on their own playlists. Do I get the credit? Not even on Mother’s Day, which is stupid ‘cause that could be a free gift.
It’s actually pretty ironic that I am using music to inspire my kids. Throughout history, music has arguably been a medium that has divided and defined generations. When we like “their” stuff, we’re trying and failing to be young. When they like “our” stuff…wait, does that ever happen? Whatever. I’m not giving up.
After all, I’m the generation that got stuck on Band-Aid brand, sang the first and last name of my baloney (without finding that in any way inappropriate), taught the world to sing — with a Coke and a smile. They’re the ones who know lyrics to all the kid shows, tunes that as we are learning have been used to torture prisoners of war. Yeah, we don’t always like the same stuff, but when it comes to music and media, our two generations have one thing in common. Not really something to brag about, but still, it’s something.
There are those who would say we all watch too much stuff (Look, Mom, it paid the bills, kinda…). Maybe they’re right. But as long as I can channel Rocky running up those museum steps at daybreak or Whitney’s voice echoing “the home of the brave” off the walls of the Superdome or a little ditty about “getting’ real” that helps me maintain my sanity at Whole Foods, I will be using all the screens at my disposal to mine musical cues and inspire my kids and myself. I may not always be “Defying Gravity” – more likely I’ll be counting bottles of beer on the wall while a Great White head-butts the cabin and cellos stroke out a warning – but who’s keeping score? Oh, wait. I am. Check in and I’ll let you know how that’s working out.