My early music influences in the 80s

I had to fight for my right to listen to “secular music”. My step father and mom were very extreme about their religious views back then. I had to mow lawns and dig ditches for illegal, well below minimum wage money to save up for music to listen to and my stepdad twice destroyed my entire collection, once burying it in the desert and once burning it in an incinerator at HELSTAF where he worked. I remember always being attracted to the sound of Stravinsky, klezmer, African music, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Chinese and Japanese classical music and free jazz, whenever I was lucky enough to come across such things. My first cassettes were bootleg copies from Mexico (complete with xeroxed sleeves) of Survival by Bob Marley and The Wailers and Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting. I thought “Russians” was the greatest thing I’d ever heard on the radio. I look back and realize that we were a bit spoiled in the 80s and early 90s in terms of variety and mixing of genres on radio and MTV as compared to the 2000s onward. Lots of artists were actually having hits in the 80s that were creative musically and had socially conscious lyrics: Midnight Oil, U2, Living Colour, Tracy Chapman, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Johnny Clegg and Savuka, Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Public Enemy, John Mellencamp (and that’s just some of the “pop” stuff that went “mainstream” on the radio) and the Fela Kuti and Frank Zappa were still alive and putting out new music. Fela Kuti was my first real concert without even knowing who he was at the time. I will always feel incredibly fortunate to have witnessed Fela live. Also a record called “Relative” by a keyboard player from a Christian rock band who went by the name “Ojo” had a big impact on me. I was forced to go to El Paso and choose a “Christian album” and saw this guy writing in the sand on an album cover and the interesting song titles with children’s drawings of cowboys and Indians fighting on the back cover. It still stands as a great collection of jazz and world music tinged late 80s New wave/alternative rock with Ojo’s (at the time still Christian) criticism of the religious right, ecological stupidity, and oppression of indeigenous peoples…it fit right in with Diesel and Dust and The Joshua Tree as a late 80s desert themed political rock album…blah, blah, blah…Joey “Ojo” Taylor is now an atheist music professor and one of my FB friends.

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