It is about mid-day, and I have finally found my way to my discordant desk. I am rarely alone in the house and find the moment jarringly quiet. As such, I decided to put on my new vinyl, “The Best of Kenny Rogers,” as I write. While I am not exclusively a country music fan, I grew up listening to Kenny Rogers’ songs.
Even now, as I write these words, I smile because I understand the reason I care for those songs so much — they told stories. And while in the third grade I could not fathom Lucille’s promiscuity, I loved the slow easy rhythm that came with the narratives.
Consequently, within the last few years, I have become an enthusiast of vinyl records, my paltry collection increasing slowly over time. However, as I acquire these black discs of venerated vinyl, I have found that I am still horrible at preventing scratches. I am sincerely careful, but to no avail. There is always a skip after a few plays somewhere on the record. I even bought a vinyl cleaner. I guess it is an acquired practice.
Regardless, I will continue to collect. For me, the medium itself imparts heavy memories. I recall visiting my father for the first time in Oregon, and I was fascinated, not at how many vinyl records he had, but how he treated those records. When my father played a song from a vinyl record, it was a slow dance before the music as he carefully brushed the records with those thick guitar fingers of his, and once the record was clean, he only touched the edges, and like a magician, carefully placed it on the turn table. It was almost religious, and undoubtedly sacred.
And so, as I write this, Kenny Rogers sings on, and I realize sometimes those songs become our own stories after a while. Not literally, but even as Kenny Rogers’ voice explains to me how to gamble, I am reminded of my grandmother, whose records I ineptly scratched up. I remember dancing with her in the kitchen in that old farmhouse we used to all live in, and how dark her hair used to be. I remember her smile, a smile of happiness.
The record goes on to explain the trials of the “Coward of the County.” Possibly my favorite song on the record. The story is tragic, and the melody imparts a matching sentiment as it pulls at the heart strings. However, there is that triumphant ending, where the failure in the town is not what the town thought he was. I often wonder how much the song influenced my sympathy for the underdog throughout my life. I know if I had been in the bar with Tommy, I would have helped him whup those Gatlin Boys.
Come to think of it, what a lousy town he lived in. I wonder how much that song influenced my understanding of people in large groups, and how sometimes they can be dangerous. And old Tommy didn’t even have social media.
As I wrap up this piece, I have to turn over the record. The first song on the second side is “Lady.” Subsequently, a few years into my marriage, I was delighted to find that my wife had the same love for Kenny Rogers’ songs. I couldn’t tell you how many times we have listened to them in our own kitchen. You should see me do the robot to “Love Will Turn You Around.”
So, once again, those songs take up another life in a different context, and the story gets told again. More often than not, those stories will always remind me of some form of home. Everybody loves a story.
Brian Theodore is a language arts teacher at Corbin High School and lives in Corbin with his wife, who is also a teacher at CHS. He can be contacted at Theteachersdesk.email@example.com.