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CARLTON FLETCHER: 'Regifting' reaquaints long-lost 'friends'

OPINION: Musical nostalgia strengthens father-son bond

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Hello, old friend, It’s really good to see you once again.

Eric Clapton

I’ve been actively engaged in what can best be described as bittersweet nostalgia over the past several weeks, revisiting some of the music that’s been lost to me the last couple of decades.

I use the words “bittersweet” and “lost” because the music in question is in the form of CDs returned to me by my son earlier this year. It was almost like a passing of the torch, only in reverse.

One of the memories that I cherish most in my life is riding around with my son, Steve, talking about life in general and listening to music. That time was especially sweet after he left Albany for Shorter College in Rome. When he came home during breaks, we’d hop in one of our pickups, drive the old familiar streets, catch up and listen to whatever new music each of us had.

Nothing was planned. Steve would say, “You’ve got to hear this new stuff by OutKast,” and after two or three songs, I’d play some of the tracks off the latest Tonic album. At times, we’d focus on the music. Mostly, though, we just enjoyed being together, doing that father-son bonding thing that is among the Top 5 moments in life that make it worth living.

When he would leave to go back to college, Steve would “borrow” a few of my latest discs and some of the older stuff that he’d been raised on. By the time he graduated, my CD collection had a serious dent in it.

Steve’s return of those treasured CDs owed a lot to the fact that his generation has very little use for the format now. With the click of a few buttons on their cellphones, they have every song ever made at their fingertips. Sure, the quality’s not very good — compare listening to “A Day in the Life” through the tinny speaker of some communications device to spinning the vinyl album and hearing its contents through a set of Bose speakers … oh, that’s right, there is no comparison. But if I want him to hear forgotten gems like “Resurrection Shuffle” or “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” or “Amen Omen” or the great Henry Gross track “Southern Band,” it’s readily available via the Web.

So, with a touch of sadness, I accepted the suitcase-like carrier of CDs from my son, in the back of my mind over dramatizing about the “end of an era.” Since then, though, I’ve more than come to terms with the re-gifting.

I admit here to feelings of joy as I’ve listened … to 7Mary3’s “American Standard,” Blues Traveler’s “Four,” “Nirvana’s “Unplugged in New York,” “Hendrix at Woodstock,” Screaming Trees’ “Dust,” drivin’ n cryin’s “Mystery Road,” Tonic’s “Lemon Parade,” Robert Plant’s “Manic Nirvana,” Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road.” Sure, I’ve heard many of the favorite songs from those albums — on “classic rock,” “oldies” and XM radio, and, yes, even online — since my son borrowed them from me, but I’m way more an album guy than I am a singles guy. You just don’t hear “Tie Dye on the Highway” or “Straight to Hell” or “Halo of Ashes,” even on satellite radio.

As I’ve listened to these wonderful discs, remembering with each one times that Steve and I shared listening to them, it’s as if long-lost friends have come home. And now I can visit them any time I like.

Sorry, selfie generation, all your “family” groups and unlimited data plans will never come close to that.