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How to make a grown man cry

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NOVEMBER 01, 2021

Growing up, I hated The Rolling Stones. 

There wasn’t a particular reason for my hatred. It was irrational — born of childish whim and sustained on pure willpower. Perhaps it was because I knew that they were my dad’s favorite band. That meant they were old and, naturally, I should hate them. 

In those youthful days of the early 2000s, my dad would frequently summon his Pandora playlist of classic rock songs, filled with an unavoidable string of Stones hits. Mick Jagger’s brash vocals would spill out the windows and onto Acacia Avenue, washing over the flowery rows of suburban homes. Meanwhile, I would place my hands over my ears and run in circles over the carpeted floor — a clear sign of protest to make my opposition known. 

In my 7-year-old mind, a rigid division existed between my present and my parents’ past. I was raised on Hannah Montana and “American Idol;” they lived on David Bowie and “Gilligan’s Island” (“A three hour tour, a three hour tour,” they would predictably sing each time we were on a boat). I most certainly did not know — or want to know — who Mick Jagger was, apart from his brief mention in Kesha’s “Tik Tok.”

Almost every time my dad had guests over, he would project the recorded performance of “Gimme Shelter” at the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jagger, U2 and Fergie delivered a high-energy rendition of the song, mixing ’60s anti-war sentiment with Y2K appeal. My dad would sit on our old red couch, sharing his excited reactions as if it was his first time watching. I never told him I was secretly captivated by the performance as well, and slowly but surely, I memorized the lyrics by heart. 

But if anyone asked, I hated The Rolling Stones. 

As I got older, it became harder and harder to resist the allure of my dad’s favorite band. My charade started innocently enough: I would lightly play “Start Me Up” as I got ready for school, dancing along to the irresistible jump of the electric guitar. From there, my secret obsession gradually escalated, building into a poetic appreciation for “Sympathy for the Devil” and the influence of Bob Dylan.

The further I sunk into the music, the more I was able to recover the fuzzy backtrack of my childhood. The songs no longer existed as muffled noise mediated through tiny, 7-year-old hands. The melodies assumed a form that I was finally able to comprehend, and I began to understand my dad’s deep-seated love of the band on a level I didn’t previously think possible. 

Yet, due to that stubborn inability to admit when I was wrong, I made my love for The Rolling Stones my best kept secret. I bit my tongue when they came up in conversation; I resisted the urge to sing along to “She’s a Rainbow” when it played on the radio. I led a double life between quiet appreciation and verbal disdain. 

But one night, my dad and I were sitting at dinner — having a witty conversation of some sort — when he quipped, “Don’t make a grown man cry.”

“Please don’t quote The Rolling Stones and think you can get away with it,” I quickly responded.

“How did you know that was from The Rolling Stones?”

By one slip of the tongue, my secret was out. But somehow, it felt like I didn’t even need to tell him — in a way, he already knew. 

So, I experienced a brief phase of well-deserved ridicule from my dad. I couldn’t listen to The Rolling Stones without him recalling those years of feigned hatred. Nevertheless, the moment I came clean was the moment I was able to truly connect with him through music. Eventually, he made a habit of quizzing me on song titles and sharing tidbits of trivia. I have also come to expand my palate for classic rock, and I like to think I am the better for it. 

When I’m back home in Huntington Beach, my dad and I will embark on long drives with the windows down, the waves lapping up alongside Pacific Coast Highway. Without fail, my dad will tune into some oldies radio station, and we’ll sing along to those classics that never fade in their timeless appeal. But there’s always a hint of humor and mutual understanding that emerges when The Rolling Stones come on. 

I may be miles away from my dad, but in a way, I carry a piece of him wherever I go. I occasionally sport my Rolling Stones T-shirt down Telegraph Avenue, and on one occasion, a Trader Joe’s cashier remarked that my parents must be proud. I like to think they are, too. Try as I might, I can’t deny it: I am my father’s daughter, and I am a proud fan of The Rolling Stones. 

Lauren Harvey writes the Monday A&E column on the relationship between art and the unspoken. Contact her at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

NOVEMBER 29, 2021


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