A Father’s Gift
On May 29, 2020, Les Mundy, my father, died due to complications from Covid-19. Today, August 3, would have been his 70th birthday. He was a kind man. He loved to chat. He loved to laugh. He loved his family. And, man, did he love music.
My dad was born in 1950. He grew up playing sports (I’ve been told he was one hell of a lefty pitcher in Little League), worshipping all the great hero cowboys on TV, and listening to classic country and western music with his father.
Just as Dad was becoming a teenager, The Beatles hit the scene and changed the world. I’d say they were probably his favorite band for the rest of his life. Dad was still buying Paul McCartney’s music as recently as 2013. Dad fell hard for many of the greats from the 60s: Simon & Garfunkel, Cream, CSN, The Who, Santana, and so many more.
I came along in the Fall of 1976. Music is one of the first things I remember. When I was two or three years old, I distinctly remember visiting relatives in Southern Illinois. My cousins thought I was hilarious because every time they’d put on Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me,” I’d dance like a fool. I STILL love that song! Back then, I knew that song because my dad always had the “Glass Houses” cassette tape in the car. The four cassettes I saw in the car at all times were Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses,” The Eagles “Live,” and the Greatest Hits of Little River Band and Journey. The latter three are most likely why great harmony vocals can still make me weak in the knees.
As a kid, I always had my own music. I remember having Sesame Street records and 8-tracks (Yes, I’m that old.), Disney soundtracks, and assorted rock and pop cassettes. We had this awesome old school desk that I’d sit at for hours, with my giant headphones on, lost in my own world. My mom used to tell people I was so quiet, she’d have to come check on me to make sure I was okay.
My father was kind of a quiet guy, too. He was into cars and sports. Me…not so much. Music was one thing we could really connect on. I grew to love a lot of what he loved. He used to copy tapes for me. I remember buying him Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” album one year. He and I watched a Stevie Nicks concert on HBO. This was all before I was eight.
Around 6th grade, I started getting into heavy music. Ozzy and Guns N’ Roses were my gateway drug that led into Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and even heavier bands. I know Dad didn’t like any of that, but he let me be me. The whole time I was finding myself, I was also digging deep into who my father was, through his music. Billy Joel, Elton John, The Eagles, Bob Seger, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac… I discovered for myself so much of what I’d been hearing my entire life, and I was finally appreciating it on a real level. I’ve carried that deep understanding and appreciation with me going forward. I was even lucky enough to treat my dad to a Santana concert once!
When Dad died, I definitely didn’t want the funeral home to play their terrible, creepy music at his viewing. I wanted to put together a playlist of some songs I knew he loved. I managed to narrow the list down to about two hour’s worth, but there was just so much more. I decided it would be cool to keep expanding that original list, so I started a Spotify playlist called “Les Mundy RIP.” As it stands now, I’ve compiled nearly 500 songs, and I’m not nearly done! Like life itself, this list is a constantly evolving work in progress. I add tracks as I recall them. The simple act of building this list, immersing myself in all these songs my dad enjoyed, has been incredibly cathartic. And, whenever I want to feel Dad’s presence, I just hit play.
Jeremy is a co-host of the Wanderings and Woolgathering podcast and writer for the Wanderings Webpage. For more of Jeremy’s reviews, click on the Music News tab at www.wanderingsandwoolgathering.com.