I grew up on a farm, and the delivery doctors must have rubber stamped "different" on my forehead the day I was born, for that's what I heard forever after. "You're...different," folks would say, lips slighted curled in what could only be labeled disgust. No one ever explained how I was different, or why that was a bad thing, but "different" hung over my head like a black cloud throughout my childhood. Whatever is was, I didn't want it.
I grew up listening mostly to the gospel and country music my family did, but when I was twelve, something amazing happened. Being poor, I never could have afforded to buy one, but I won a radio. Now it wasn't much by today's standards, it didn't have a clock, wouldn't play CDs (they weren't on the market yet) or cassettes (that weren't on the market yet) or even eight tracks (which WERE on the market). Where we lived in the middle of nowhere, I could only pick up a few stations, but the one to come in most clearly? Rock 101.
Suddenly the "different" in me found an outlet in songs that spoke to my individuality, and celebrated my "difference." At night I'd turn the volume low and keep listening even though I'd get in trouble if caught. That little radio provided my link to life outside the farm, and my morning started with a tiny childlike voice saying, "Good morning, Buddy Carr!" the morning DJ's trademark sign-in.
Elton John's Someone Saved My Life Tonight, spoke to my longing to be rescued from a dull life, and Tiny Dancer became my favorite song. Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word, said better than I ever could how bad rejection hurt.
From age twelve on up, Rock 101 was a touchstone in my life. I grew up, moved away, got married, had kids, got divorced... I threw out eight tracks in favor or cassettes, and later, CDs, but so many times, I tuned in to my favorite radio station, now a classic rock station, to hear the songs from my youth.
I left the state for many years, and when I came back, satellite, CD, and an iPOD put musical choices at my fingertips.
Then, just the other day, while switching CDs, what should I hear but the crackly call sign of my once favorite station! I tuned in and...lost myself in musical history. The commercials are something I can do without, but that moment felt like coming home. The song? Elton John's Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road.
Some things never change. And I'm glad that, after (mumble, mumble) years, Rock 101 is still there.I listen with my grandkids now. And in the future? Who knows?
And these day? I revel in my "difference". It's the best part of me.