Back in January, I wrote a special Basement Song column dedicated to my daughter, Sophie, on her birthday.Â Tomorrow, November 14, is my son Jacob’s birthday, and I now I want to dedicate something to him.
When it came time to choose a song to focus on, I couldn’t help but return to a number that he and I bonded over recently.Â Some of you loyal readers to Popdose may cry foul over using this Gaslight Anthem song twice in less than a month.Â See, I reviewed their album in October and actually featured today’s song.Â However, it was through my repeated listens to The ’59 Sound, and the title track of the album, that Jacob became familiar with the song.Â When I was contemplating what to say to Jacob for his birthday, this song’s melody kept coming back to me.Â I took that as a sign to forgo the tearjerker I was going to write about and keep this post in the rocking spirit of my son.Â Thanks for reading.
When thinking of what to write today I contemplated reflecting on your rugged journey into this world. The days you spent in the neonatal intensive care unit, the concern that you needed surgery, the sudden helicopter ride that flew you from peaceful Burbank to the noisy and crowded UCLA hospital,, and finally bringing you home with us just in time for Thanksgiving, yes, a lot happened during the week you were born, so much that much of it is a blur to your father. I spent so much time driving in my car going to and from home to the hospital to your aunt and uncle’s that you’d think I could recall some melody from that period in late 2001. But I can’t.
The more I think about it, though, the more I think this is a good thing. I don’t want to dwell on the heartache or the pain; I don’t want to dwell on cystic fibrosis, or breathing treatments or the number of pills you have to take each day. No, today I just want to say how blessed I am that you’re my son.
In the past year or so, the two of us have begun to develop our own special relationship, one different from the one your sister and I share. From trips to the comic store to watching cartoons, from Star Wars to Spider-man, I’ve witnessed a kindred spirit come to life inside you. Knowing that you appreciate and love the same cultural things I have treasured my entire life is thrilling. And of course, there is the music. The two of us have a shared affinity for the same type of driving rock and roll that gets your feet pounding and your head bobbing up and down.
It began with the Boss. Who knows how many hours you spent watching the E Street Band “Live in Barcelona” concert prancing around the living room strumming your ukulele and singing the lyrics to “The Rising.” It was so many that it influenced the way you hold the guitar. Because you were mirroring Springsteen’s image on the television, you now only feel comfortable carrying an axe in the lefty mode. You quickly connected with The Ramones, too, which is a funny group for a little boy to latch on to. It began with “Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy” featured on What’s New Scooby Doo, then “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)” in School of Rock, and finally “Rockaway Beach” showing up in Rock Band. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you would take a liking to the one-two punch of the Ramones. Punk isn’t necessarily a music form as much as it’s an attitude. Punk is independence. Punk is standing up to the system (“sticking it to the man” as Jack Black would say). Punk is finding beauty in the crap the world throws at you. It shouldn’t surprise me that you enjoy punk stylings because you, my son, are punk. You’re strong, independent, fierce, empathetic and forgiving despite everything you go through, and you are a true individual.
Yes, I could have easily chosen a Ramones song or one of Springsteen’s masterpieces to dedicate to you on your 7th birthday had it not been for what happened last Saturday night. The two of us were on our way to McDonald’s and I dialed my iPod to the title track from the Gaslight Anthem’s album, The ’59 Sound. As the band ripped into it’s raucous rocker, I looked into the rearview mirror and caught you staring out the window, nodding your head to the rhythm and the beat of this great song. I had played the song for you a couple of times and you had smiled. However, it’s sometimes hard to tell if your child actually likes the songs you’re playing for them or if they’re just trying to make dad happy. When I stole that glance driving down the street, you were in your own world, rocking out. The moment was pure. My influence wasn’t present, just you in sync with the music.
Later that night, while washing dishes, I played “The ’59 Sound” once again, thinking I was alone. You strolled into the kitchen, dressed in your pajamas, ready for bed.
“Hey, daddy,” you called out.
I turned around and you went into the little dance you do, you know, the one that’s a cross between the funky chicken, the moonwalk and Axl Rose’s shuffle? Man, I just wanted to scoop you up and hug you so hard except that I was laughing so hard. After your display of agility, you started down the hall toward your bedroom, but not before looking back with the biggest smirk on your face, proud that you’d made your dad laugh.
You know, Jake, in the years to come you may never recall this fleeting moment in your long life to live, but I will treasure it always.Â I hope you’ll always keep “The ’59 Sound” close by to lift your spirits in the low times and to raise the rood when your ready to rock the house (just don’t do too much damage).Â Finally, I hope that whenever you hear the opening chords of the song that you’ll think about your dad and how much he loves you.