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Life Lessons Taught by the Backstreet Boys

First Person

April 15, 2001|DAVID L. ULIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Most important, I've started playing acoustic guitar again, jamming with my children in a loose approximation of that once-longed-for family band. The way it works is: I pick out the chords to "I Want It That Way" or "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely"--both Backstreet Boys songs--while Noah and Sophie dance and sing. Often, we play the appropriate CD in the background, to give a fuller sound. Sure, the rhythms are ragged, but we have a great time. And when we're done, I play my own stuff or let the kids bang on my guitar.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a musician friend, when the conversation turned to our current tastes. I sheepishly told him the truth. But I had also, on those rare moments when I found myself alone in the car, been enjoying a lot of mid-'60s Bob Dylan--"Visions of Johanna," "Tombstone Blues."

As we talked, however, I couldn't help thinking about the difference between what we hear in solitude and music as common experience, something we recognize and share. Music, after all, operates on a collective level, erasing our differences for the duration of a song.

For all Dylan's importance to me, my kids couldn't care less about him; they just want to have fun. And playing with them has brought that out in all of us, regardless of the quality of the song.

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