If we’re lucky, as we go through life we get some clues about what we are supposed to be doing. We find the right things to connect with. Cosmic wake-up calls. The old “Hey Josh! Over here...
For me the lights all started blinking the first time I saw someone play the drums live.
One afternoon when I was in the third grade, I came home from school and heard a bunch of crashing and banging coming from the neighbors’ walkout basement. I figured out what the sound was pretty quick. Here’s the deal, if someone starts playing drums in your townhouse row, everybody knows. There is no such thing as secret drumming in those buildings. The walls were paper thin so it sounded like it was in the next room. I wasn’t bothered by it. I was curious.
Our friends the Lees lived next door, so I went to investigate. The youngest son, Mike, lived in the basement. I waited for a pause in the noise, knocked loudly on the sliding glass door, and Mike opened the door.
Mike was about twenty years old at the time. I thought he was cool, and he was nice enough to let me hang around sometimes. And the man had style. On this afternoon, he was wearing a bathrobe, slippers, and three pairs of different colored of sweatpants, each cut to different lengths so you could see them all. Straight up funky.
When I entered I saw the drum set. I have no idea what brand it was, but they had a natural wood finish, and there were two giant columns of homemade speakers right behind the kit. Mike went over to his turntable, put on a record—yes, actual vinyl—then quickly jumped behind the kit. Parliament-Funkadelic’s “Give Up the Funk” came blasting out of the speakers, and Mike kicked into a groove along with it. It felt like I was hit in the head. It was like the time I knocked myself unconscious on a soccer goalpost trying to make a save, except this time I was waking up. “Music,” I thought, “I want to do that.”
It was the most powerful thing I had ever experienced, and it connected hearing music and making music in an unforgettable way. Some people spend their whole life and never find what they are supposed to be doing, but I was lucky. I knew at that moment that I was born to play music, and it may well be because my next door neighbor was in his basement jamming along to P-Funk in a bathrobe one afternoon.
Thank you Mike Lee.