We are family: How did your parents influence your musical taste?

Even parents who didn't take to the stronger sounds of the 1960s found The Beach Boys an acceptable musical influence. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Sure, your musical tastes may not be the same as your parents. Maybe they never missed "Lawrence Welk," all the while yelling at you to turn down your KISS cassette. But that doesn't mean they didn't influence your taste in tunes.

Depending on your parents' generation, they may have passed on a love for big bands, Elvis, the Beatles or any of hundreds of other genres and artists. Maybe they started draggng you to classical concerts as a tot, or taught you the hidden beauty of accordion music, or made sure you appreciated the lyric poetry of Leonard Cohen or Lou Reed. We asked our staff to share their favorite musical influence from Mom and Dad.

The Beach Boys

I grew up shoveling out from under some of the deepest snow in the country in Rochester, N.Y. It was a long way from the sun-kissed surf and California girls I dreamed about every time I heard The Beach Boys playing in my house. The band was a comfortable substitute for the psychedelic rock of the Woodstock era, which my non-hippie parents never turned on, tuned in or dropped out of. In our summers, vacations to the Eastern seaboard and sidewalk surfing on plastic skateboards served as suitable fill-ins for a 1970s kid who just wanted to “Catch a Wave.” It’s easy to trace the transition in my musical taste to the new wave of the 1980s and recognize why I still love hearing classic surf rock like Dick Dale or The Ventures. I credit the “Good Vibrations” coming from the record player of my youth. --Kurt Schlosser

World War II songs

Nothing looms larger in my parents’ lives than World War II. My dad was a Marine who fought in the Battle of Okinawa, and he and my mom married in 1943 before he went overseas. While he was gone, she gave birth to my oldest brother, named for his GI father who might never come home. So when I hear a war song from that era, it’s their marriage and courtship that plays in my mind. I can’t hear “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” or “It’s Been a Long, Long Time” without thinking of my mom and all those military families, waiting stateside for word, trusting they’d one day reconnect. “Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer” always breaks my heart with its triumphant tale of a damaged plane limping home. The lyrics "though there’s one motor gone, we can still carry on” weren't really about a fictional plane, they were about our whole country pitching in to make it through the fight we just had to win. And though it’s not from his war, my dad used to tease me when I’d sleep late by belting out “Oh, how I hate to get up in the moooooorning,” Irving Berlin’s song about a GI's hatred for the company bugler. Mom and Dad are still with us, and now that Dad's been retired since the 1980s, he can sleep as late as he wants. Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition. –Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

Paul Simon

One of my earliest childhood memories is listening to Paul Simon crooning out about the “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" –- and how I’d run around the living room acting out “getting on the bus, Gus.” (At the time I was reading a book called “Gus the Ghost” and pictured a happy apparition boarding.) Mom had several of Simon's solo albums, and after the Columbia Record and Tapes Club fairy visited our house, we had an 8-track of the Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits. I didn’t know exactly what they meant when they sang about Mrs. Robinson and her cupcakes, or about words of the prophets on the subway walls, but in later years when we studied Simon’s lyrics as poetry in middle school, I discovered I hadn’t just been handed an awesome musical legacy, but an education. Today, I’m still a huge Paul Simon nerd, ready to sing “The Only Living Boy in New York” at the drop of a hat –- then give you all the inside scoop about what the lyrics really mean. --Randee Dawn

Neil Diamond

My parents were married on Feb. 8, 1964, the day before the Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show." They watched the performance, but the lovable mop-tops from Liverpool were a bit too young for them. Instead, my earliest musical memories involve riding with my dad in our old Chevy Bel Air, listening to Neil Diamond’s 1971 album “Stones” on the 8-track player. It featured several cover versions of other songwriters’ songs, but my two favorites were Diamond originals “Crunchy Granola Suite” and “I Am … I Said." That was only the prelude to Diamond’s masterpiece –- the double live album, “Hot August Night.” Recorded at a 1972 concert, it turned him from a successful pop singer/songwriter into a legendary performer known for his live shows. The opening orchestral prologue features strings that build to a crescendo of drums and blazing guitar and -- what else? -- “Crunchy Granola Suite.” The 40th anniversary deluxe edition of the album is being released on July 31. It’s the perfect Diamond primer for Neil newbies, highlighting early hits as well as his mastery as a live performer. --Denise Hazlick

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