I suspect Barbara isn’t going to like this. But I think we’ve all just been schooled. Without meaning to, at all, Barbara kinda sorta sucker-punched us, me included.
Easy to get taken in by all the self deprecation. Yet the list and related recollections tell a very different story. This is a woman who actually knows quite a lot about music. And contrary to her account, she hasn’t been living in a vacuum. Look to the list.
Jay Nordlinger of the National Review is an accomplished and highly sophisticated music scholar. Barbara wanted to talk to him about music. So she did. Me? I’d be happy if he let me buy him a drink. Why did she buttonhole him? Not because she’s a ditz. Because she’s an aficionado.
She lists Bach’s Goldberg Variations twice. She recognizes that the Glenn Gould and Daniel Barenboim performances are distinctly different pieces of art. She has an ear. All her classical references are to specific orchestras and recordings. She’s no dilettante.
I get it that she grew up with the big bands, as I did. But did you notice how many of them she saw in person? Imagine having been a witness to Louis Armstrong, let alone all the others, including Benny Goodman, both Dorseys, and Artie Shaw.
Significantly, though, she revealed that she continued to follow jazz after the big band era. She called out Chet Baker and Charlie Parker as well, both superstar icons to the true believers of jazz. It wasn’t a bobby-soxer mentality she was caught up in. It was the music.
Other items on her list likewise suggest that she hasn’t stopped listening. She’s just picky. Nina Simone is there. Patricia Kaas. And Jeff Buckley. Looking at a Rolls Royce ( or should I say Packard?) standard here. In her quiet way she’s letting us know that not much of the music we’ve imprinted on impresses her much. Or she’d remember it.
So here’s a kind of side challenge for everyone. Pick just one song you’d like Barbara to listen to. I’m sure she would. Put in a link she can take. And ask her what she thinks.
I’ll start. She has a fondness for falsettos. Nobody has a bigger library of falsettos than Mick Jagger. So I’m going to offer up this little known gem for Barbara’s delectation.
Be prepared. She will be invariably nice. But she will also be honest. She will not say she actually likes it if she doesn’t. She’ll just be a bit faint in her praise. How ladies do things.
Do you have the guts to play this delicate game? Bet you do.
P.S. A quick refresher course for those of you whose memory of ladies is phantasm or nonexistent. From my first ever blog:
Some of us… can’t help remembering ladies. They were our mothers and grandmothers, our friends’ mothers and grandmothers, and they had no idea they were prisoners of a vicious sexist culture. They knew how to smile, how to make strangers and shy ones feel welcome, they knew how to dress up for a party, how to dance to ballroom music, how to practice countless skills that made houses into cheery homes, and we loved them. In every possible way they exemplified the essential human virtues and mediated their children’s vulnerability through their own. They were playing a life-and-death role, especially in those first six years, and one that fathers couldn’t play because their role back then was different. Fathers weren’t second-string mommies, always playing catch-up on the sensitivities not born into men. They were, when all was said and done, judges — the ones charged with preparing the children to be strong against the institutional temptations and corruptions that were coming after the time of safe haven was over. Their job was not to be taken in the way mother could be by an artful grin or pleading. Their job was to say no, to describe the consequences, to levy the punishment so that the lesson would be learned in the home, not in the dangerous realms of the outside world.
And the mommies knew that was their role and supported it. They knew what a man was. Do you? Tread with care.