Led Zeppelin

It’s a warm Saturday morning in May (the weather broke, finally, after a week of heavy rain and gray skies), and I’m here with our little girl Louisa while bae is enjoying a well deserved weekend in Florida. We’ve got some children’s music on the speaker, though I’ve been alternating between that sort of stuff and, e.g., Led Zeppelin to make sure that she’s got a nicely rounded understanding of all the wonderful shapes that music can take. I’m on a big Led Zeppelin kick lately; my buddies and I spent the better part of our five-hour round at Sleepy Hollow yesterday blasting our way through the discography. For my money, if you’re looking for groovy metal riffs and wailing vocals, it really doesn’t get much better than Zeppelin. My point is that I’m trying to show Louisa this fundamental truth before she gets wise enough to dismiss her father’s addled whims.

Tongue-in-cheek aside, I’d forgotten how much Zeppelin I’d listened to as a kid. My dad gave me a copy of the fourth album for one of my birthdays, and I remember thinking, “What is this?” The cover art is notoriously empty of any meaningful information, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t know the first thing about the band at that point. He’d raised me on the Beatles, mostly, and already I’d begun my own forays into pop/rock/etc. (Alanis Morissette, Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind). So, when I first threw IV on the old boom box, I was knocked out: This was not the “old man’s music” in the vein of the Beatles! This was something different.

I remember too spending a lot of time with II, mostly because I thought naming a song “The Lemon Song” was funny. The album art on II seemed even older, even stranger than IV.

Old and strange: I’m not using these terms pejoratively. There’s something important, I think, about engaging with art that came to be before you were born. We’re dropped into this ocean of life and society and rules and technologies, and it’s on each one of us to find the context. Our parents help, with any luck, but we are each one of us alone at sea. Part of the good work of living life and finding happiness out here is to place yourself somewhere within the broader map, to find a space to self-actualize while maintaining an understanding of everything else around you. The bulk of this work is done in early adulthood, I think, and we refer to it as shaking off the childish idea that you are the very center of the universe. That’s what kids think, naturally, that the whole of the universe revolves around them. And why not? Most clues point in that direction. But of course there’s much more than just me/you. Art helps us grasp that truth. And art from long ago helps us grasp that truth across vast gulfs of time. “Long ago” being relative, like anything else.

“And a new day will dawn for those who stand long, and the forests will echo with laughter.”


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