We’re excited to have guest blogger Denis Storey with us at The Nostalgia Diaries for our Music Monday post today. His story shows us how the music that defines the places and cultures in which we grow up can leave such lasting impressions on our musical tastes. I personally know all about how this works: when I was a young teenager living in Nashville, I became immersed in the world of country music and instantly fell in love with it—and I’ve been a fan ever since.
Check out Denis’ post and then let us know: How did your environment play a part in shaping your musical tastes? Perhaps it was by the type of music that was popular in your city? Or maybe you were influenced by your friends? Whatever the reason, we’d love to know—share your story with us in the comments!
My 1990’s Soundtrack | Denis Storey
Despite Fate dropping me right in the middle of the Midwest, I would grow up to be a product of opposing environments. I spent my childhood up a few streets away from a trailer park, but once I reached the fourth grade, Kansas City’s desegregation efforts bussed me into inner-city schools an hour away. At home, I blended in with a poor, racist majority. At school, I survived as the court jester minority.
As such, my musical tastes swung wildly as I felt the two worlds tearing at me. I grew up with rock ‘n’ roll-bands like the Eagles, REO Speedwagon and Styx. My older stepbrother had all the latest vinyl—and a black light. Motley Crue and Guns ’n Roses would come later.
Outside of my house, country music prevailed. It was all Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers and Alabama. My neighborhood was all twang, steel guitar, and moaning.
But I also remember the first time I heard a rap song. It was 1985, in ROTC class. The teacher was late to class. A classmate right next to me opened his tattered duffel bag and pulled out a portable radio/cassette recorder. I’d soon realize this was called a boom box, or as my step-father referred to it, a ghetto blaster. He hit play, and Shawn Brown began performing “Rappin’ Duke,” a novelty rap song I’ll never forget, no matter how badly it’s aged. That song—or probably more precisely that style of delivery—changed me forever. I immediately fell in love with the unlikely marriage of samples and beats, the braggadocio, but most importantly, the storytelling.
I hungered for more. There was no outlet for this music at home. No radio station played rap in 1980s Middle America. It was all country, folk, or what I called freedom rock. So I had to chase mix tapes, until I was able to buy my first real hip hop cassettes from artists like LL Cool J, Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys.
By the time I got to college, hip hop’s golden age was in full swing, and while I listened to it constantly, my passion also drew me to what you might call afro-centric music choices. I discovered jazz late one night in 1993. John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” floored me. Incidentally, I immediately felt guilty, considering how critical a role jazz played in the early years of my hometown. I embraced the blues, funk and old school soul music.
I reveal all this as a way to explain the eclectic nature of this list, although it is admittedly heavy on hip hop. I realize I slept through—or thumped over—the grunge and pop waves of music most people surfed at the time. But this music was more than just a soundtrack for a critical part of my life; it was—and still is—one of my earliest and deepest connections to my adopted community.
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Born in Hawaii and raised in Kansas City, Denis Storey came to Denver in 1998 for a job at a daily newspaper and never left. Storey has spent his entire career covering health care, health care reform, health insurance, employee benefits, human resources and retirement planning, He’s written for print, broadcast, and digital media. (And man, there’s nothing like a good glamour shot from the ’90s, is there?)
Want to submit your own song or playlist to be featured on a Music Monday post? Email us today! We can’t wait to hear your own nostalgia-inducing tunes.
At The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.