When I inherited my father’s meager record collection, I rediscovered a few favorites that I used to listen to when I was younger. He had the soundtrack to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. He had the Creedence Clearwater Revival album that had ‘Fortunate Sun’ on it. I remember him giddily showing me a Steppenwolf song called, ‘Earschplittenloudenboomer’ and my lack of appreciation. In fact, there were several albums I just didn’t get and never really listened to. Blood, Sweat, and Tears’ self-titled album. Ten Years Later. Led Zeppelin III. Classics that I didn’t appreciate until much, much later. And some I’ve yet to crack…but time has a way of wearing away the soil that obscures my understanding.
I saw Django Unchained this week and REALLY enjoyed it. Among the great cast, the gorgeous cinematography, and the witty dialogue it had a fabulous soundtrack. There were a lot of songs I’d never heard, yet they found a home instantly in my heart. I got home and immediately bought the soundtrack. I listened to it several times on Christmas, and several times yesterday. Today, I realized there was a song in the movie that wasn’t on the soundtrack. That’s not unusual; albums only hold so much music and rights cost money. I was determined to find this song, though I only knew one word: Freedom.
After some research, I discovered the song. It was a 1969 tune by a guitar player by the name of Richie Havens, conveniently titled ‘Freedom’. The guitar soothed me and the voice haunted me. I had to hear it again. But every version I found on Youtube was a recent recording, and the few older recordings I found were live. After more research, I found out why. The version that is most well-known comes from the album cobbled together from the live recordings at Woodstock. I discovered this, and had a moment. Time stopped for just a second. I paused, stood up, and walked to the living room. I bent down to the box that holds my vinyl, both new and old, and extracted a tattered three-cover album simply titled ‘Woodstock’.
I never played this when I was younger. ‘Live’ recordings weren’t my thing for the most part of my life. The only time this record spun on the turntable is when I wanted to let one of my friends hear ‘The Fish Chant’ by Country Joe and the Fish. Otherwise, my ears were virgin to the entire Woodstock experience. Sure enough, there it was on side one of disc one: Freedom.
Even though the hour was late, I took out the groovy disc, put it on my player, and listened to a song that I had just fallen in love with in all its crackly glory. A song that had existed well before I did. And one that sat, waiting, in my living room for the past two years.
It was as if my father had grabbed my shoulder and said, ‘Son, sit down a minute. I have a song I really want you to listen to.’ It just took me a while to hear it.