My ten year old and her friends are at the age where they are visiting each others’ homes and going for bike rides. It’s lovely. After school and on the weekends we’ll have a knock on the door and off the girls go. Sometimes they ride together to visit another friend, that friend hops on her bike and off they go to visit another friend, until it is time to unwind it all and be home before dark. They’re free-ranging. Popping in for games and a snack. Going for picnics. I like it.
One of her friends, lets call her Elle, is the daughter of my dear friend, lets call her Jay. (So cryptic, for local players...). They don’t have a lot of music in their household. They have a lot of compassion, wholesome food, recycling, simplicity, reading, kindness and lots of good things, but not much music. I don’t think Jay would be insulted if I say she wouldn’t know a Bieber from a Beatle. She admits she couldn’t sing a song the whole way through - she doesn't know the words. I was a bit surprised when Jay bought Elle a book of popular music to play songs from - she plays flute - and Elle knew none of the hundred songs. None. I suggested she do some research on youtube, which she did. So, with permission, I’ve taken it upon myself to give her family cds as gifts for their birthdays, and offer Elle a little lesson in popular music whenever she sits down for afternoon tea before going for a bike ride.
It started when she came over the other day and there was a Q magazine on the table. It was an old “Women in Rock’ issue with Madonna on the cover. (I was once working on a series of drawings of Women in Rock.) She didn’t know who Madonna was. So the lesson began, with pictures, albums, music, and my potted history on why certain aspects of her work are influential or important in terms of pop culture. As the girls put on their bike helmets I said, ‘Next week, Kate Bush.’ Half joking. But, next week, we did cover Kate Bush, in ten minutes. So now, it is our thing. It’s fun. Next week is Joni Mitchell. I’m thinking I’ll move on to Burt Bacharach, Phil Spector, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and on forever until they get sick of me. My own children are a little bit eye-rolling with my enthusiasm to teach them certain things (‘who’s singing this song?’), so having a new pupil is, for me, a gift.