Judas Priest was Ever’s first favorite band
I am alone with Ever on Monday and Tuesday evenings, and it’s probably safe to say that he hears different music on those evenings than he does the rest of the week. I need a fix of heavy metal on a regular basis, but I also have enough sense not to play Slayer for an eleven-month-old. So when we were alone one Monday evening, and I was about to wash dishes while Ever played with the donuts from his classic Fisher Price stacking toy, I put on some Judas Priest. I started with Breaking the Law. As soon as the opening riff began to play Ever stopped what he was doing, looked up at where the sound was coming from, smiled big, and started bouncing at the knees. I had seen him dance to music before, but I had never seen him react so strongly to a particular song. He walked over to the bookshelf where the stereo lives, looked up at it, and bounced to the whole song.
There I was completely wasting, out of work and down
All inside it’s so frustrating, as I drift from town to town
Feel as though nobody cares, if I live or die
So I might as well begin to put some action in my life
Breaking the law, breaking the law…
So much for the golden future, I can’t even start
I’ve had every promise broken, there’s anger in my heart
You don’t know what it’s like, you don’t have a clue
If you did you’d find yourselves, doing the same thing too
Breaking the law, breaking the law…
I figure it’s not a bad thing for a kid to like heavy metal. My friend and I were drawn to heavy metal in high school because we couldn’t stand the emptiness of most pop songs. We wanted honest music, music that described the world as we saw it. We were afraid of being sent to war, so songs like Disposable Heroes by Metallica and War Ensemble by Slayer spoke to us. Adults and popular culture said that Ozzy was telling us to kill ourselves in Suicide Solution, but after one listen we knew he was just saying the same thing most adults were trying to tell us, that drinking heavily is a slow way to end your own life. He just said it in a way that was way cooler than most other adults. So when Ever smiles big and dances to Breaking the Law, I tell him that not every baby is warm and safe and well-fed right now. Not every family has a decent home, and a reasonable job. When people do bad things, there is usually a reason they are doing those things. Some of the things people do are bad, but we have to be careful about judging people as opposed to judging people’s actions.
When I was a teenager I remember my dad coming into my room once while I was listening to Metallica. I think I was listening to Ride the Lightning, and he just stood in the doorway and shook his head. He wasn’t angry or anything, he was just unable to relate to the music and unable to understand how I could like it. I asked him what he was thinking. “It’s just noise,” he said. “There’s no way people will still be listening to this when you get to be my age.” I’ve often thought back to how far off that prediction was, especially when I see so many of my students still listening to Metallica. Many of them even prefer Metallica’s classic albums from the 80’s like Master of Puppets, just as we do. This is nothing against my dad; I’m sure some of Ever’s music will sound like noise to me. But I know he will find meaning in it, and I am curious to see in what directions how his musical tastes develop.
For now, Ever has a new favorite band. I played the Refugee All-Stars for him last week, and he squealed and ran around, stopping to bounce to the music every once in a while. His smiles were even bigger than they were for Judas Priest. But if I sing the opening lines of Breaking the Law to him, he smiles and starts dancing. He’s going to be a cool kid.