The Day The Music Started

The Day The Music Started

I can still remember that day over 45 years ago when it all started for me. My brother and I we’re in extreme distress as we tried to figure out a way to keep from getting beat that evening by our legal guardian. It had become a daily nightmare. She would come home from work and demand that we take off all of our clothes. Then, the beatings would begin. Most times she used an extension cord but there were those days that she use belts, sticks and switches from the tree. Now I wouldn’t dare try to say that my brother and I were angels or anything like that. We did things that normal 9 (him) and 5 (me) year old kids did. But most times we got beaten just because it was a part of her daily ritual. The beatings often lasted for what seemed like hours and she made sure that she aimed for our genitals as much as possible. Because of this I often peed blood and had welts all over my private parts.

This particular day my brother and I were desperate to find something to keep us from being beaten again. We had already run away many times but the authorities always found us and brought us back . They didn’t seem to care about the abuse we faced each day. They saw all the scars and just ignored them. So, my brother suggested that we write a song and create a dance routine to go with it. As we worked on the lyrics I began to hear music in my head. At first it was a very faint melody but then it got stronger and stronger and before I knew it I was humming the music I heard to my brother who matched the lyrics to the melody. The name of the song was “How Do You Feel MS. Willie Mae”. We worked out our dance routine and waited for her to come through the door. The song had a “Doo Wop” feel to it. I guess that’s because this was in the early 60’s and that was the current music of the day.

As soon as she got home we excitedly told her we had something to show her. Our strategy was to do our song before she grabbed the strap and started beating us. We immediately began to sing the song and do our dance routine. As we sang I noticed this strange look coming over her face. It was a look I had never seen from her before. She seemed to be really into our song and routine. When it was done she applauded us and gave us both a big hug. Most importantly though, she never went towards the whipping strap and for the first time in months we didn’t get beatings.

From then on I could hear the music in my head. It was like a radio had been turned on in my head and I couldn’t shut it off no matter what I tried. Most times I tried to ignore it but there were those days that I would just sit down and listen to the sounds I could hear in my head. I heard horns, strings, bass, drums and guitars. There was all kinds of music going on in my head. There was Jazz, Rock, Pop and Soul playing constantly on my own personal radio in my head. I was scared to tell people about it because I thought they would think I was crazy or weird. Sometimes I would sit down and write lyrics to the songs I heard and other times I would just find a quiet place like the floor of the clothes closet and just sit there in the dark  for hours listening to the music in my head. It became my refuge from the storm of constant violent and verbal abuse I faced each day. In the background of the music in my head I could faintly hear my guardian saying I was worthless and that nobody loved me including my parents. She used lots of profanity and to her my brother and I were just two worthless N-Words. I am convinced that the music kept me from going insane because I learned how to tune out the negatives of life. Even during beatings I could hear it and would get lost in it as the belts and and straps bloodied my body. The music in my head became my saving grace. It was my shield as after a while I seldom even felt the beatings. I just knew I was getting beat. It would infuriate her when I would just lay there taking it without crying. So, she would force me to beat my brother or my brother to beat me. That was the hardest part for us because we loved each other!  But she would stand over us and demand that we beat each other or face her wrath.  The abuse was constant but the music got louder.

The music was there for me during my troubled youth. As time went on I became the violence I was use to receiving. I joined a street gang in South Central Los Angeles and I was good at being violent. I was a fighter and I loved dishing out beatings to others. It was my way of paying her back! I know that sounds twisted but I was a child and I thought that the violent world I had always known was the only way to live. But the music continued to play in my head and I couldn’t get rid of it no matter what I tried or where I was at. It was there during a tearful reunion with my mother, the music uplifted me as I saw all the lies I had been told all my life evaporate and become consumed by true parental love from my mom. It was playing in my head even on the delta in Viet Nam. As I got older the music got louder and more defined. I gained the musician skills needed to start interpreting these jam sessions in my head. I wrote song , after song, after song. I taught myself how to play instruments and sing. Although I couldn’t (still can’t) read music very well, I could play almost anything I heard. So, naturally, I wrote and played the music in my head.

Currently I have copyrights for over 800 songs of varied genres. I have won many high profile international songwriting contests and have released 5 solo CD’s. But it all started that day when my brother and I were desperately looking for a way to avoid another beating. The music was the first thing in my life that helped to change a negative to a positive. When I was ordained as a minister of the gospel I was assigned to the corrections department where I traveled to 36 prisons, juvenile halls and youth authority camps each year sharing my music and a message of hope. It was not a limelight ministry. My reward was seeing the faces of men, women and children as they accepted a notion that any negative can be changed to a positive. Plus it helped that many of them already knew about me from my former lifestyle. I had become a walking example of negative being changed to positive. As I prepare to release my sixth solo CD I look towards the hills with warm gratitude and thanks. Some would say that the music was simply a part of my destiny. Others would say that I am genetically inclined to be musical. But I say that when I was at my most innocent and desperate moment God intervened. He opened my ears so I could hear something soothing as I was being brutalized, something strengthening as I faced hardships and strife and something effective as I strove to reach out to help save someone else. Jazz, Hip-Hop, Gospel, Soul, Rock, Metal, Reggae, Pop! It’s all playing on my own personal station. Its still inspiring me to write, produce and perform the blessings in my ears.


1 comment