When my son was only a few weeks old, I decided that a good mother should soothe her baby with lullabies. So, I attempted to sing one—well, not actually sing—more like hum. And the song was not a lullaby, but Land of 1000 Dances, by Wilson Pickett.
When I got to the na-na-na-na-na part, his little body started bouncing to the beat. To most parents, this performance would simply be labeled as cute; but to my music-loving family and me it meant that he had inherited some important genes. I still remember almost dropping my child as I ran with him clutched in my arms to show my husband our son’s first evidence of rhythm.
We listened to jazz almost exclusively, which is probably why our son developed a passion for offbeat music. In kindergarten, he refused to sing ditties about inky dinky spiders and farm animals, preferring instead to belt out Billy Holiday’s, Good Morning Heartache.
As he grew older, music took on an increasingly important role in his life, which eventually led to his writing and composing songs that defied genre. Then, sometime around his late teens, he began to write concept albums—music that wraps around a theme.
At first, I thought these albums were silly and did not listen to them. But, by the time he graduated from college, I had developed a new appreciation for his efforts. The albums created audio art that illustrated a musical story that I did not want to stop reading. Soon the tunes stuck in my head and before long, I found myself humming the lyrics as I went about my business.
But, I digress.
Since his teen years, my son has produced 22 concept albums. For his 23rd, he chose to undertake an ambitious worldwide collaboration with color as the theme. I thought he was crazy. Where would he find musicians from a global palette to mix together on a musical canvas when not only logistics, but also cultural differences presented a challenge?
Fortunately, technology solved a large part of the problem by funneling the far-flung participants into one virtual arena by way of the Internet. Those who could physically attend recorded in his tiny studio apartment, and those who could not, transported themselves via cyberspace.
Driven by their creative vision, more than 40 national and international musicians put aside their regional and cultural differences to take part in this sometimes-serious-sometimes-whimsical collection of music and poetry. The project, called Kaleidoscope, soon became a testament to what the world might look like if everyone put aside his or her differences to pursue a common goal.
Who would have ever thought that an Israeli and a Palestinian would join an African-American and a Latino to sing and rap about green? Or that the words in The Illuminated Self (White) could so eloquently express a longing to take part in something greater than the self, especially in the passage:
–but I can’t feel fine!
I stand, a piece of a kaleidoscope
One of a million means of reading hope
I want to see them all, I want the brilliance of the scope.
Okay, I am his mother and there is a certain amount of prejudice when it comes to championing what my son does. And I am an old hippie who still dreams about a world filled with peace and love. But, the sheer delight of such a diverse group coming together to sing, rap and recite poetry gives me hope that there is still a chance for the peaceful side of the human spirit to prevail.
I think Wilson Pickett would be pleased to know that his Land of 1000 Dances created a dance from 1000 lands.
And yes, I’m on the album. I am silver.