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Music and Mr. McKay

Ten years ago, this August, my boss and mentor passed away. It was sudden, unexpected, and left an impact. For the longest time, he’d pop into my mind daily, but now it’s a few times a week. Usually when I have a little memory, or something triggers some goofy conversation we had or maybe I scroll past a movie he talked about.

But the past couple of weeks, he’s really been on my mind. See, Mr. McKay (as we affectionally referred to him) loved music. He played the saxophone in his youth, adored jazz, and had a massive vinyl and CD collection. He was the type of guy who had a music room and would spend his evenings just listening and appreciating all the intricacies of sound.

Unlike many “music lovers” I know, he wasn’t a snob. He liked all music. When I sheepishly admitted that I enjoyed jamming to a Jessica Simpson song, he brought in the CD the following day for me to rip. We’d trade music like that all of the time, no matter how rare.

I remember discovering PM Dawn had a random fan club release, which was surprisingly great. I was only able to find a bootleg, but it became a quest for both him and his brother to try and track down a copy of this very limited run album.

He’d find an album, and think of me, and bring it to work. He’d say something like, “Brandon, I was listening to this last night, and it made me think of you. Give it a list when you have a chance” and with no time limit or expectation, he’d hand over a CD and I as off to discover what was on it. One of my favorite memories with that was when he gave me some random CD which included a track from the Six Feet Under soundtrack that I loved. He was great about knowing exactly what type of music I’d appreciate.

I feel like I’ve been out of the music game for years. Mostly, I’ve just listened to my favorite 80’s and 90’s tracks, until I’ve sort of worn them out. Then a few years ago, I began listening to what I call indie country, but I guess is part Americana and part non-mainstream country. Folks like Jason Isbell, Cody Jinks, and what not.

But over the past month, I’ve been discovering new hair metal bands, which is the music I loved the most in high school. I plan on writing a blog about this later, but I still need to formulate my thoughts. While I knew some Scandinavian rock was good, thanks to the Viva la Bands album, I just hadn’t even tried to find much new music over the past decade. Suddenly, I fell into a rabbit hole on Spotify and the next thing I know, I’m thinking about buying CDs again.

Each day, I seem to discover a new band or a new song that I love, and when I do, I want to share it. That’s when Mr. McKay comes to mind. I don’t really know of anyone who will appreciate the music I’ve found and not many folks like being bothered with “Hey listen to this and tell me what you think,” so in a way it’s isolating, but it also reminds me of being in high school and discovering all these old hair bands and having no one to talk to.

But if Mr. McKay was still alive, he’d love it. He’d love that it was weird and out of the box, and that they could put together some great music inspired by the 80’s. He’d make me feel heard about my musical tastes, and he’d even call his brother or his friend Charles on speaker phone and tell them all about the new music I introduced to him. And I’d feel great about myself, and my musical tastes and the world would be just a little bit better.

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