Last week, my sister Kristin Rogers Brown and I played “Mixtape Tennis” between Portland, OR and New York City, NY. What would have been our late mom’s 70th birthday on March 11 sparked us into reminiscing about growing up in a musical house, with professional musician parents that mostly relegated themselves to the classical world. And that got us thinking about the awkward process of trying to introduce our ever-diversifying musical tastes to our parents in a way that would help them get to know the real us … and hopefully expand their own horizons without embarrassing ourselves. In my opinion, our on-going introductions worked more frequently with our mom than with our dad, and soon she was listening to shockingly-cutting-edge ’80s and ’90s “mom music,” like Shawn Colvin and Basia.
I have another more potentially embarrassing confession to make: My musical tastes first began to expand beyond Mozart, Beethoven (and, if I was feeling saucy and experimental, Stravinsky) when I started listening to the easy listening station formerly known as FM 100 in Chicago on my portable transistor radio that was affixed to my bedpost with a nylon wrist strap in the early ’80s. It was Julio Iglesias, Willie Nelson, Crystal Gale and Melissa Manchester that began my great musical rebellion and renaissance. This practice of secretly listening to the “lite hits” continued, along with a few stray experiences with the Flashdance soundtrack, Phil Collins, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Prince until my shop teacher in 6th grade introduced me to the wonderful sounds of 60s R&B and rock. I fell in love with artists like Frankie Valli, The Beach Boys and the Everly Brothers as I awkwardly cobbled together leather bracelets and wooden address plaques. Since then, my musical horizons have never stopped expanding and thankfully have become edgier and more exciting. But I don’t think I really started to tell my parents about the extent of my collection until I was in college. And it wasn’t until I started playing in a punk/soul band in NYC in 2002 that I came fully clean about all the corners of my secret life.
Please enjoy “Mixtape Tennis,” which, aside from showcasing the wide range of some of my sister and my favorite types of music, which includes everything from The Beastie Boys and Blackalicious, to Cat Power and Florence and the Machine, is also a celebration of my mom’s two main instruments: flute and keyboards, in all their glorious forms.