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Tim Elliott has long mulled over the effect of his parents’ musical choices and trends on his own personal taste. In this two part series, he examines the repercussions of a childhood full of Chicago, Elton John, America, and…nü-metal!? Look for part two in the coming week!

Bands of Our Fathers: Part I

Most people think “soft rock” is synonymous with “mediocre, bland suck.” For most of my generation, soft rock has a warm place in our collective childhood. It’s probably the first kind of music we were exposed to. I remember my Aunt Mary driving around blasting 102.5, the local soft rock affiliate, in her mint green Tercel that reeked of faux-cinnamon air freshener.

On Sunday afternoons, I’d sit in the basement with my dad and listen to his LPs and cassette mix-tape collection. He’d blast them, air guitar-ing along to artists like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Chicago, Elton John, America, Billy Joel and his favorite, James Taylor.

My mom probably couldn’t name her favorite band, but she always played the oldies and whenever I’d try to turn on some of my “crazy head banging music,” she’d quickly get a faux-migraine and switch to just about anything else. She digs just about everything made before 1980 with the notable exception of all of my dad’s favorite music which she felt obliged to hate after he made her listen to Chicago’s ‘Dialogue Part I and II” for the hundredth time.

It would be totally unfair to say that my musical fore-bearers didn’t listen to some universally acknowledged music. They liked Boz Skaggs, the Beatles, Steely Dan, Cat Stevens and the Beach Boys and other bands that don’t routinely appear after Gloria Estefan’s hits or Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” on 102.5’s “Stress Free Zone” programming.

What was most disconcerting to me once I became conscious of their taste in music was that my parents and aunts and uncles listened to music with little to no edge and even less cultural respect. Usually, the bands that got played at my house weren’t the sort that music critics praised or up tight politics groups burned en masse, barring any major moral backlash against Kenny Loggins.

The music I grew up with was fun to listen to, but rarely “influential.” Without the profound admiration of most 40 year-old rock critics backing my parents’ music of choice, I felt a bit embarrassed to own up to the fact that I knew the lyrics to James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” by heart. Sure, my parents’ favorite artists wrote songs that were catchy, fun and easily understood, but they seemed fairly simple on the surface and weren’t exactly the soundtrack to a teenage rebellion.