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Music has lessons for parents and kids

As soon as I heard the first twang of the guitar and pluck of the banjo, I called out to my two teen-age sons.

"Hey, Snoop Dogg is doing a country song."

Like me, they were in disbelief. Hearing the rapper do My Medicine, a tribute to Johnny Cash, not only caught us off guard, it proved a point I had been trying to get across to the boys all week.

Great musicians and great music lovers appreciate all kinds of music.

Call it the latest chapter in my never-ending quest to deal with hip-hop's potential impact on these impressionable minds.

I've given up banning hip-hop's often raunchy lyrics and demeaning messages. Between iPods and Web sites, it's far too accessible.

Instead, I've made it a point to listen with them, challenge the more negative aspects and along the way, let them know there is a lot of great music beyond T-Pain and Flo-Rida.

It's been my approach ever since a teenager wise beyond his years ended a barber shop debate about the perilous messages of hip-hop with this statement.

"It's not the music. It's the way the music is perceived," he said. "There's a problem with the way they're perceiving it."

I'm determined to improve how my kids perceive the music. This week, I started with Tampa native and nationally renowned saxophone player Eric Darius. I played some tracks from Darius' latest CD and explained how he specifically wants to reach more young people with a mix of smooth jazz, hip-hop and even a little reggaeton.

"Jazz? It's okay, I guess," said Matthew, my oldest.

Another lesson started when the conversation turned to this week's BET Awards and Matthew said, "Some guy named Green got a lifetime achievement award."

"Are you talking about Al Green? You don't know Al Green? To the computer."

I read them a bio about Green while Let's Stay Together played in the background.

"Oh, dad, you've played this song a hundred times for us," said Ethan, my younger son.

"That's because it's a classic."

We talked about Green's gospel roots, his incredibly unique voice and the success he had in the '70s. I'm not sure they remember much beyond the story of how a demented female friend once threw boiling grits on Green, causing him to suffer third-degree burns.

But I'm trying.

Then they turned the tables. I had to listen to one of their new favorites, Lil' Wayne's Mr. Carter.

Oh, the torture.

Matthew exclaimed, "He's the greatest rapper alive."

In attempt to demean, I said, "MC Hammer is still alive."

Ethan: "MC Hammer is still alive? Really?"

Still, the discussion that followed proved worthy. I cited the lyrics with artistic value and I also made them question the necessity of the profanity. Hopefully, a seed was planted.

"And the next time you hear a misogynistic lyric like that, think of your mom or your sister," I implored.

"What's misogynistic?" Matthew asked.

Clearly, there's work to be done.

So today, they'll listen to Marvin Gaye and I'll listen to someone named Rick Ross.

Call it a cultural exchange.

That's all I'm saying.

Music has lessons for parents and kids 06/26/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2008 11:46pm]
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