In Loving Memory
Welcome to For Your Consideration. I am Nicholas La Torre and I am here to present relevant issues in music that are on my mind. This week, something else came to mind. I'm going to take a break from complaining about the fat cats that ruined the music industry. This week, I have something from the soul. Check it out below!
While visiting the in-laws today, I found something that I have not seen in a while and if I'm being honest, wasn't sure I wanted to. I stumbled across one of my oldest and most sentimentally valuable guitars that I own. While I could have told you where she was if you had asked, I hadn't really thought about her for a while. Her name is Molly and she was my first love. She wasn't named after some old flame or anything like that, I just thought that was a good name for a guitar and I had always heard guitars were supposed to be named after women. Molly is a Fender DG-16 acoustic guitar, but even more importantly, she is the first acoustic guitar this ole boy ever owned. She was a Christmas present (that I picked out) about 20 years ago and basically provided the entire foundation for whatever music passion, career, or obsession that I would ever have. First, I basically learned to play guitar with Molly alone in my room with some guitar tabs I would print out at school. Later, she was there to listen when I lost my Grandfather to a long and painful battle with cancer. After providing the therapy I needed, she was the instrument I used to write "Grandpa's Song," which is my most inspired tune and one of my proudest accomplishments.
Picture of Molly during a practice session with Turning Pages.
Even only considering what that time of my life was like, there was plenty of memories brought up seeing her today. But that's not what I thought about first. You see, I didn't write Grandpa's Song alone. It would eventually be used with my band later in college, but originally, Grandpa's Song was written with the help of one of my best childhood friends Tim Myers. He and I had met at Upward Bound, a college preparatory summer program for students in the area. I always felt more comfortable with him than I did any other friend. He had a realness and assurance about himself that just wasn't found in others our age. It's as if he was above the insecurities of adolescence, even though I know they still affected him. He helped shape the person I am today by being the role model I needed, even though we were the same age. But to me, he was something else. He was the greatest songwriter and musician I had ever met. It had some to do with his vast knowledge of music theory, some to do with his weird choice of musical instruments (you should have seen his bass--I believe it was a one-off piece he found second-hand that was the most bizarre thing I had ever seen), but mostly to do with his ability to make everyone around him better. He taught me what it meant to have a style and a voice. He would tell me that I was on to something, even when what I was playing was utter shit. When I lost my grandfather, he was there for me. He had been through death with much greater exposure than I had through that point. But he told me to channel it through music. He shared a song with me by Type O Negative called "Red Water (Christmas Mourning)" that dealt with death in a way that didn't have to be so literal. As a journalist, I hadn't spent as much time focusing on creative or lyrical writing, and as a result, I still have issues today with writing lyrics. I find I stifle myself by putting a box around my words and making sure they include the elements of proper English and grammar. He told me just to tell him what I was feeling and he would help me put it into words. He told me to describe what was going through my mind, even if I couldn't articulate. I spoke about emotions and my lack of understanding in a way I hadn't before and haven't since.
So seeing this guitar today brought on a series of emotions that I haven't had to think about in a long time. I remembered most recently seeing it in a picture. Well, not a picture exactly. It was a painting my friend Tim painted. I saw it when I attended his funeral last year. You see, I lost my friend and muse, Tim Myers, also to cancer last year. I reminded me that I didn't make enough time to see him before he was gone. It made me remember the last time I picked up a guitar and tried to write about the loss of my friend in the same way he taught me to mourn my grandfather. How, like many years before, I was not able to articulate what he meant to me. I went to his funeral, but things still felt unfinished...and still do. It's not his birthday or anything, but seeing that guitar brought up feelings of missing my friend. I'd like to make a grand proclamation and say that seeing it will inspire me to try again. Maybe I just didn't have the guitar that reminded me of him. The one we used to write a song I'm really proud of before. But what worries me the most is that I just don't have him. So after getting over the rush of emotions seeing this ole girl stashed in the corner brought on, I'm going to choose to see it in a better way. Rather than tucking her away today, I'm going to leave her out so that I have the privilege of remembering my friend today. And if I see it tomorrow, that will be a privilege too. I believe one day, I will write that song that I've been longing to write. To close the door on my sadness so I can move on to the happy memories I have with my friend. Hopefully, seeing Molly again can be the first step in finally writing those words. On the long drive back home, I kept thinking of a way I could convey how truly incredible music is. I mean, music is such an all-encompassing thing. For some, it's a livelihood. Others, it's an escape. But most importantly, it's whatever you need it to be at the time. Seeing that guitar reminded me of another time I dealt with losing someone close to me and through the teaching of a friend, how music and that guitar helped me heal. Sometimes we need a reminder not to shut things out of our lives because they make us sad. Hopefully, you can have that same reminder today and if something in your life needs healing...you get it.
Painting by Tim Myers, photo by Nicholas La Torre