The Music of Our Parents

imagesOne of the albums that I’m anticipating most this year is Rosanne Cash’s album, The List, which comes out on October 6. Anything new from Rosanne Cash is eagerly welcomed by me, but this project is bound to be particularly special. The album will be comprised of 12 classic songs culled from a list that her father, Johnny Cash (obviously), gave to her as essential listening back when she was eighteen-years old. Since she had to choose only 12 songs out of a reported list of one-hundred, it’s pretty safe to assume that these 12 choices are among her favorites of the list that was lovingly compiled by her father, even if she did not fully appreciate them at the young age of eighteen.

While I have not adopted a large portion of my parents’ musical tastes as an adult, there are certainly singers and songs that have filtered into my music repertoire thanks to their influence. Artists such as John Denver, Peter Paul & Mary, The Seekers, Don McLean, Simon and Garfunkel, ABBA and Gordon Lightfoot aren’t necessarily people I’d naturally seek out on my own. They, however, hold a special place with me as a result of my parents’ love of their music, to the point where I can easily call myself a fan of them too.

What music has been successfully filtered to you from your parents?

By the way, here’s the track listing for the upcoming Rosanne Cash album:

1. “Miss the Mississippi and You”
2. “Motherless Children”
3. “Sea of Heartbreak” (w/ Bruce Springsteen)
4. “Take These Chains From My Heart”
5. “I’m Movin’ On”
6. “She’s Got You”
7. “Heartaches by the Number” (w/ Elvis Costello)
8. “500 Miles”
9. “Long Black Veil” (w/ Jeff Tweedy)
10. “Silver Wings” (w/ Rufus Wainwright)
11. “Girl From the North Country”
12. “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow”


  1. I love all the big classic rock artists from the late ’60s on into the ’80s. The Allmans, the Doobie Brothers, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Rush, Yes, and the list goes on. My parents listened to those classic rock stations a lot when I was growing up and it all rubbed off on me — well, most of it, that is. My uncles, aunts & grandparents were the ones who got me into the old country, and I love just about all of it as well. I tell people all the time with my tastes in music I should have been 20 years older. ;-)

  2. I grew up in the late 80’s and 90’s and the music I remember my parents loving was Alabama, and loretta Lynn. I’ve always loved Alabama but didn’t come to realize how great and important loretta’s music was till I was in my 20’s a few years ago. Now my personal favorite from the era of my childhood is and will always be Reba. She had her first number one hit 2 years before I was born so her music has really been the background music to my life ever since 1984.

  3. Being a child of the 1970s, the music that was on the radio at that time, be it what we now call “classic rock”, disco, Top 40 pop, all of that has stayed with me to this very day; it was what I listened to in my mother’s car when she drove me to school, and what I listened to at home. I also listened to a fair amount of Elvis, primarily the stuff he did from 1969 until his death in 1977 (getting into the classic stuff of his a bit later in life). Some of the 80s music was good, but I’ve never gotten into either MTV or Madonna, and it’s a little bit late to get into them now (IMHO).

    And I owe my aunt a great deal of gratitude for having first exposed me to Linda Ronstadt back in 1978 (with Linda’s then-newly-released album LIVING IN THE U.S.A.), which not only started an appreciation for Linda, but also helped me look out for like-minded female singers since–of which there have turned out to be many.

  4. I remember some of the country music my parents listened to (Reba, George Strait, Tanya Tucker, Willie Nelson, John Anderson) but it was friends that really got me into it during the 90s boom, when Garth ruled. My mom did introduce me to two albums that I eventually purchased copies of for myself and still listen to somewhat often:
    The Best of Carly Simon
    Linda Ronstadt’s Cry Like a Rainstorm (Howl Like the Wind)

  5. When I was a kid, we had 78 rpm records. Many of the albums were somewhat like a photo album. You opened it up and there were maybe 8 sleeves, each holding a single record which had one song on each side. You played the song, flipped it over to play the other side, then replaced it in its sleeve and took out another. If it slipped from your hand, it usually broke. The records were much more rigid than the LP’s and hence very fragile. Some of the artists I remember in our collection included Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, the Mills Brothers, Perry Como, Al Jolson, Gene Autry and the Ink Spots plus some classical stuff that I didn’t care for. I have an Ink Spots cd that I still play a few times every year.

    My mother got into some country music by around 1960. She loved Jim Reeves and Eddy Arnold. I still remember hearing her sing “He’ll Have to Go” and “Make the World Go Away”. I didn’t start my shift toward country til around the mid 70’s.

  6. From my mom I’ve gotten an appreciation for Roberta Flack, Motown, Queen, Elton John, and Neil Young. And since she got into the whole Garth Brooks thing in the ’90s (with me as a captive audience in the passenger seat of her car), I guess I’ve got her to blame for getting me started down this road in the first place ;-)

  7. Neither of my parents were what I’d call big music fans. My Mom listened to whatever was on the radio, whether it was the Hits station, the New Country station, or the Classic Rock station – she or Dad never seemed to be very particular about what we listened to. I remember my Mom did like both Pat Benatar and Hank Williams Jr. a lot, and I’d call myself a Hank Jr. fan thanks to her playing his music around the house.

    My Grandma Journey was the one who really played country music for me as a kid, and I guess that’s what got the ball rolling for my love of country. After I got older and started seeking out music of my own, I found myself gravitating towards the same stuff Grandma used to play: Conway Twitty, George Jones, Ronnie Milsap, Merle Haggard, to name a few, mixing themselves with my own new country releases from Alan Jackson, Shania Twain, The Dixie Chicks, etc.

  8. My parents had such a wide-open policy about music. As long as it was the best music they could care less what other people called the music. Without my parents I would never had heard Roger Miller, Pasty Cline, Judy Garland, Muddy Waters, Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, Glen Campbell, Louis Armstrong, or James Taylor. The reason I rest my head on their music now is due, to some degree, on the comfort and safety that their music invokes inside of me. I listen to that music as though I was still a child listening on the living room floor to the radio or some LP. It is their mark of love on the music that makes it feel like a close cousin, a friend. It also reminds me that I have a duty to pass on music to the children in my life.

  9. My Dad gave me big-band jazz, Irish folk music, Hank Snow & Gene Autry, and (most importantly) a love for the music of Jimmie Rodgers

  10. I grew up in the sixties; Mum listened to everything, and I have a love of Celtic, folk, country and rock from her. She used to stack 45’s on the stereo, so one would hear Guy Mitchell, then Tom Jones, then Marty Robins followed by the Beatles. We also listened to a lot of big band and brass band music as my Dad liked it.

  11. My Dad liked mostly Classical, (my Mom did too, and Opera on her side of the family) and I think my love for the works of Mozart and Beethoven stem from that.

    My Mom also enjoyed a lot of folk music, Joan Baez and Judy Collins, but I never really took to that genre, unless it was unconciously laying down the seeds of my future appreciation of Country music even then.

    I pretty much discovered Rock and Country on my own..beginning with Creedence’s Travelin Band (I thought he sounded like Elvis) and Who’ll Stop the Rain on 45..Then on to Country Rock and Southern Rock, then to Country and Bluegrass.

    Since then, both my Mom and my Dad have grown to really appreciate Country music. (My Mom enjoys Patty Loveless almost as much as I do) And my Dad and his wife actually had the honor of being a guest of the late great Don Helms for tea at his house, he even gave them a steel guitar demonstration!

    Now Dad tell’s me he used to listen to WWVA as a kid… I’m grateful for our family’s musical traditions, but I can’t help but envy the folks who grew up with the Opry on radio as a family ritual. We had Prarie Home Companion, in more recent years anyway.

    {Oh, and as a side note, Patty Loveless will be Garrison Keillor’s guest this October 3rd on the show.} ;)

    Great topic!

  12. My dad was really the parent who instilled a love of music in me. My mom wasn’t really a music fan, something that’s difficult for me to understand. Aside from the music that I listed above, my dad’s taste is extremely ecclectic, including classical, opera, big band, classic rock etc. Music was something that the two of us could always relate to as I was growing up. When I got into country music, I was thrilled to learn how much my dad already knew about it. He’s one of those people who knows something about everything, anyway, without being at all pretentious.

  13. I guess, Leeann, it was your father who got you into Don Mclean and John Denver. I think that both were great songwriters. McLean wrote the words and music in most cases and Denver also had many solo writing efforts. Denver was easily the better singer. My wife and I were lucky to see him in concert in 1976 at Madison Square Garden. Our kids, in their late 20’s, have shown no interest in country music so far. Dave Matthews is one of their favorites.

  14. Actually, my mom and dad jointly liked the artists I listed above, but my dad’s love of music really runs much deeper than my mother’s. It’s just not something that she had to have on as we were growing up.

  15. Great topic!

    Offhand, I think I inherited much more music from my Dad than my Mom, just because he made more of a habit of playing music in the house. He loved Willie’s Stardust and Frank Sinatra, plus 70’s pop/folk artists like Harry Chapin, James Taylor, John Denver and Carole King.

    I also got a real love for oldies and Motown from a friend of my parents’ who would watch my sisters and me sometimes. She would always play that particular station whenever we went anywhere with her.

    I didn’t actually take to those artists immediately when I started listening to music on my own, but once I started exploring the world beyond country music a little more fully, I found myself gravitating to them more and more.

  16. Thanks to my dad I am famillar and like alot of the music from the Bee Gees, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and Eric Clapton
    And I will admit that thanks to my mom, I am somewhat of a fan of Cher, especially her 80’s material.
    My grandma turned me on to some really good songs like “For the Good Times”-Ray Price, “Tennessee Waltz”-Patti Page, alot of Patsy Cline’s material including her version of “Wayward Wind”

  17. This topic makes me a little sad, especially at this time of year, as music was one of my big bonding things with my dad. There’s so much music that I associate with him.

    Much of it is what I heard in the car growing up. He loved Johnny Horton, John Conlee, and Marty Robbins. His favorite Johnny Cash songs were the corny ones – “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and “One Piece at a Time”, and I remember him playing “Man in Black” a lot.

    There are some songs that I can’t hear without thinking about him. He was a huge Clint Black fan, and he played the heck out of “Nobody’s Home.” He also loved an album cut called “The Old Man” which seems ironic in retrospect.

    Even though it’s not a country song, his favorite was “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys. Since it inspired Mel Tillis to write “Detroit City”, there’s a country connection at least.

    My mom liked a lot of country music also, and I picked up on some eighties country from her, like Ricky Van Shelton and Rosanne Cash. Kenny Rogers was always in heavy rotation, too, and I remember hearing a lot of Tammy Wynette.

    Even though my parents were big fans of country music, I had to discover a lot of legends on my own because they didn’t care much for them, like George Jones, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings. Interestingly enough, I’d be the one to help them discover how good those artists were. I wanted to know everything about country music and hear everything significant back when I was a teenager, so I helped fill in the gaps for my parents in the end. Not a bad thank you for turning me on to the music in the first place!

  18. My mom is easily the bigger music fan and comes from a music loving family. She’s much more of a rock & roll listener, but she likes some classic country as well. Because of her, I also developed a liking for 50’s and 60’s rock & roll. Sometimes, she’d literally have the oldies station on all day, so it was bound to happen sooner or later.

    On the other hand, I’d have to say my dad is responsible for getting me into country music. Whenever he had the radio on in either the car or in our basement, it was on a country station. I guess it turned out I was exposed to country first. He is mostly into classic country like George Jones, Hank Jr., Waylon, Johnny Cash, etc., but he also shared a liking for some of my favorite artists and songs of the 90’s. As I got older, I came to appreciate the country legends Dad listened to and began seeking their music, as well.

  19. Sorry for the bitter-sweet memories you’re experiencing right now, Kevin.

    My dad’s favorite Cash song is “One piece at A time” too.

  20. From my mother, it was Elvis. I remember the day he died, and how she teared up in the kitchen when the AM station was playing some of his songs. From my dad, an appreciation for Roger Miller, Johnny Cash, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby. He also was a faithful viewer of the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and so I have fond memories of sitting with him, enjoying John Hartford, Mel Tillis, and the others that dropped by for that summer show. I believe it was the summer replacement for The Smothers Brothers.

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