AT RANDOM: Singing the blues

Working in a newsroom, one learns to tune out the constant chatter and conversation.

Working in a newsroom, one learns to tune out the constant chatter and conversation. But at times, the desire to procrastinate from the task at hand is too great, and suddenly all of us are debating which Stieg Larsson book was the best, red wine versus white, our favourite Seinfeld episode and why Glee is no longer must-see TV.

And when the talk turns to music, you can be sure all of us — who range in age from 20s to 60s — will get in on the discussion. And suddenly we’re reminiscing over concerts we’ve loved, artists we’d prefer to never hear from again and others with voices that send us into paroxysms of joy.

So when our music reviewer Dean Gordon-Smith was in this morning to pick up the latest batch of CDs for reviewing, I of course couldn’t resist getting in on the conversation he was having with arts editor Kristin Froneman.

Dean is also a professional musician, so when I mentioned that my seven-year-old daughter has a thing for Justin Bieber, he was — unsurprisingly — horrified.

I had just finished explaining that my brother, a blues musician who lives in Calgary (shameless plug: Blues Connection, check them out on YouTube), had sent me the following e-mail the other day after I had sent him a pic of his niece wearing a JB T-shirt: “Justin Bieber! JUSTIN BIEBER!!! Have you forgotten the Blues part of her musical education? JUSTIN BIEBER???!!!!”

And yet, I understand her crush on the teen sensation. Because when I was a kid, I had a massive — and I mean huge — crush on the Justin Bieber of my day, Donny Osmond. Posters, records, 16 magazines piled on the floor: you name it, I had it.

Sure, it was all very clean-cut and wholesome, but the kid could sing. And, let music-lovers everywhere shun me, but so can Bieber.

My brother, five years my senior, had far more sophisticated tastes. At my eighth birthday party, he took me record shopping so I’d have tunes to spin on the turntable. Needles to say, all of my choices were deemed unacceptable. Apparently, he thought eight-year-old girls would prefer Cream, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater.

When I was 12, and my sister was 10, we were in Toronto with my parents for a convention. My brother had just flown in from London, where he had been living for the past year, and of course we were all thrilled to be reunited. But I’m sure he wanted to hop on the next flight back to Heathrow when he discovered that we were desperate to go to the Osmonds concert. And that he was being pressed into service as our chaperone.

My memories of that concert are of thousands of girls screaming, with no hope of actually hearing the music, and my brother wearing his Elton John-esque platform shoes that were decorated with shiny silver stars (yes, it was the ‘70s).

The next year, in an attempt to be part of my own musical education, he took me to see BB King at UBC’s War Memorial Gym in Vancouver. I was not a blues fan at the time (see aforementioned teenybopper crush), but I was thrilled that my older brother thought I was cool enough to take to a concert.

It turns out he did have some influence on me after all. I no longer listen to Donny Osmond (full disclosure: I have a couple of songs for nostalgia’s sake on my iPod), but love the blues.

And who would have thought that years after that Osmonds concert at the CNE, I would be reminiscing about the show with Kristin. It turns out she was at that same concert. And no doubt screaming loudly and preventing me from hearing the subtleties of One Bad Apple.

I’ve taken my daughter to a couple of concerts already: the Wiggles twice, Charlotte Diamond, Bobs and Lolo and other toddler favourites. And I fully expect that in the not-too-distant future I will be hearing the screams of thousands of Justin Bieber fans.

—Katherine Mortimer is the lifestyles editor for The Morning Star