The radio wars

An epic battle for my daughter’s taste in music

I fear I may be failing as a father.

It seems I've lost ground in an ongoing struggle that's been waged in our house for nearly 10 years. I've tried to pass along my taste in music to my daughter, while my wife – a former college DJ at UNH – imposes her influence. The result: the Radio Wars of 2013 are being waged, and there have been casualties.

When my daughter was born, it was fairly easy: She'd go to sleep to the Beatles and we'd spend car trips listening to Laurie Berkner – a musician who writes and plays tunes for kids that parents can also enjoy.

When she got a little older I introduced her to Pink Floyd. She liked them because she thought the album “Animals” was really about animals. She learned to love the indefinable style of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and the mind-bending bass playing of Victor Wooten. I was clearly winning the battle for the airwaves in our house.

Even now when we're in the car, I'll quiz her. A song will come on and I'll say, “Katie, who is this?”
She'll listen for a minute and answer with “Boston,” or “ZZ Top.” Mainly because they're the artists that seem to be most often played on the radio stations programmed into my car stereo.

There's been a shift, however. Of course she began to listen to her own music – stuff that appealed to her. For a time, Hannah Montana was tops. And that was fine, but it seems my wife had been laying in wait – biding her time until she could pounce and unleash all kinds of college radio alternative music onto her impressionable ears.

It became clear not too long ago when she brought home a questionnaire from school. It asked the students to fill out lots of personal favorites – things like movies, TV shows, sports teams and music. It specifically asked, “what is your favorite music group?”

With no prodding from her mother and I, she wrote: “Coldplay.”

“You know who Coldplay is?” I asked her, a bit surprised.

A little sophisticated for her age, I thought, but that band is actually a safe middle ground between my old-man classic rock and my wife's college radio oddities. I could see the tide turning as my daughter began to lean more toward bands like Weezer (who she insists on calling “Weeza,” mimicking my pronunciation) and Fun. They're both very good, but a gulf began to appear between her youthful tastes and my admiration of 70s guitar-based music played by dinosaurs on things we called “records” and “CDs.”

A key battle was lost recently when we were leaving my daughter's hockey practice. My wife and I had arrived at the Exeter rink in different cars – she from work with her strange and indecipherable college radio stations programmed into her satellite radio, and Katie and I from our house.

“Who do you want to drive home with?” I asked as we crossed the parking lot.

The answer proved to be shocking in that it showed that my wife had gained substantial ground in this war of melodic attrition.  “I'll go with mom,” she said. “She plays music I like.”

Clearly I must redouble my efforts and bring out the big guns. Thankfully, AC/DC is now available on iTunes.

Bill Burke is a writer who lives in southern N.H. with is wife, daughter, and a big old Fender Precision bass, which has been known to play Rush tunes.

Categories: Dad on Board