My interest in music began at an early age. I’m not exactly sure why, but at the age of five, I became enthralled with arguably the greatest cellist of the 20th century: Pablo Casals. I think it was the rich, sonorous sounds that attracted me to the instrument. I was transfixed by Casals’ technique.
Although I was a small child and the cello was quite large, an instructor at the Settlement Music School decided to take me on as a beginner student. This instructor was none other than Marcel Farago, a virtuoso cellist and composer with the Philadelphia Orchestra for nearly 40 years. I will never forget how patient he was with me and how we sometimes played duets during practice.
I enjoyed playing in my elementary and junior high school orchestras, although I never considered myself an accomplished classical musician. When I was about 10, my musical horizons were broadened (along with millions of others) when I first heard The Beatles. At the time, I started buying “45” records at the local record shop and played them over and over and over again until the grooves wore down. I think my mom got to know the songs as well as I did…from a distance. I gleefully recall Magic Carpet Ride, Midnight Confessions and All Day and All of the Night as being some of my favorites.
As the years went by, I often wondered whether I would enjoy rock and roll as much when I got older. In fact, music has clearly withstood the test of time for me. I enjoy it just as much today, if not more!
It all started with The Beatles and quickly expanded to other British bands of that era, in particular The Rolling Stones. I am a devout Rolling Stones fan and will not waiver from my adulation of their blues-based rock and roll. Some of my favorite Stones songs, among many, are: Sympathy for the Devil, All Down the Line, Wild Horses, Sway and Moonlight Mile.
Back in the day, when a new Beatles or Stones album was released, it was truly an occasion to celebrate. Fans (myself included) would happily line up at the record shop to procure a copy of their latest vinyl album. Some local radio stations actually played the new Beatles or Stones record on the air, from beginning to end.
Speaking of vinyl albums, I can still feel the excitement of removing the cellophane to admire the album cover artwork and read the liner notes. The creativity behind such album covers as Big Brother and the Holding Company’s “Cheap Thrills” or Cream’s “Disraeli Gears” enhanced the listening experience.
My childhood friend Mark Small and I were miles ahead of our other classmates as we thoroughly explored such artists as Frank Zappa, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix from Mark’s living room stereo (volume turned up to the max, of course). One fine day, Mark called me up and excitedly invited me over. He had just purchased The Beatles’ latest record, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (He beat me to it). We listened to the album several times, being completely fascinated by this extraordinary collection of musical styles. In my view, Pepper’s might be the most influential record of my generation. I would highly recommend you listen to Pepper’s uninterrupted, from beginning to end, without checking your cell phone!
During the pandemic, having the time to re-experience my favorite music has been a godsend. From the stinging slide guitar of Duane Allman, to the exquisite harmonies of the Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills, Nash (and sometimes Young), to the snarling bluesy vocals of Mick Jagger, to the thunderous drumming of Ginger Baker, music will always be a huge part of my life.
It’s only rock and roll…but I love it!