My dad is my hero. Plain and simple. I never had to look farther away from me than him. After he gave up coaching, a decision that left me heartbroken since he would never coach me in basketball, whenever our local high school did not have a game, Dad would take me to other schools’ games in order to scout for a coaching friend of his. Dad had been this man’s assistant coach before the man left for another coaching job, and Dad assumed his position as the head coach.
I loved these games more than going to the local school’s games because Dad would actually point out what coaches look for on the court. What may appear to be slightly organized chaos to the untrained eye is a work of art that teams the precision of a ballet dance with the strategy of a chess match. And when a team executes at a high level, the beauty of their game is magnificent. I guess I always knew that I would be a coach.
Even during the time that I was angry at him for leaving the family when I had just turned 13, I still admired him. During that estrangement, I despised that people thought my success was only due to him, as if I had no abilities of my own. But, when I started having a family of my own, I was determined to mend our broken relationship. To this day, we are the same yet so very different. He does not understand my politically liberal beliefs nor my artistic side, but he tries to relate. It’s hilarious when this Barbra Streisand-loving man tries to discuss a Simon & Garfunkel musical he saw, but I give him an “A” for his effort.
Back in 1971, I was just 8 years old. I think it was around this time that one of his former basketball players was assassinated in Vietnam by a sniper. I was distraught because I had spent many days at his parents’ home and knew the whole family. During this time of mourning, Dad asked me what I was thinking. I simply told him that it was a waste of John’s life to have been killed in Vietnam. Dad, a Korean War vet and former history teacher, asked me to explain. I told him that I thought this war was a waste of time since it was obvious that the Vietnamese people really no longer wanted our presence over there. Apparently, I elaborated that if South Vietnam truly wanted to win, then more of their people would be joining our forces to push back the North Vietnamese. Yet, that wasn’t happening. As a matter of fact, the opposite is happening as many civilians are playing both sides of the game in an effort to undermine our efforts over there.
I remember the conversation, not the specifics as he told me them, but I do remember the look of shock on his face that encapsulated disbelief of a youngster’s grasp on geopolitical history, a shock that I’d be anti-war at all let alone at a young age and a swelling of pride that his son could articulate such a stance at a young age. But, that was the environment in which I grew up. I was not shielded from the news (Walter Cronkite every night!), 60 Minutes, and a small but solid set of political books in his little “library,” all of which I had read before he left the house.
1971 was the year when my parents allowed me to start buying 7-inch singles. My first informed purchase was Paul & Linda McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” From there, my collection has exploded. When compared to all of my friends, I have the biggest collection. But, when placed in the context of vinyl collectors, my collection is quite modest as I have around 2500 vinyl albums, 10″ EPs, 7″ singles, 8-track tapes, cassette tapes and CDs.
Since my failed back syndrome and the subsequent back pain and constant back spasms came into my life over 20 years ago, I have shifted the refuge of my sanity from the exercising of a former athlete to a sedentary music aficionado. Oh, sure, I have always been a music aficionado of a high level, but, now, I have taken it to a whole new level. Oh well, what am I supposed to do to survive?
After that non-sequitur opening, let’s get to the countdown. Here’s my favorite 50 albums of 1971.
50. George Harrison & Friends – The Concert for Bangladesh
49. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Tarkus
48. Yes – The Yes Album
47. Crosby, Still, Nash & Young – 4 Way Street
46. Three Dog Night – Harmony
45. Can – Tago Mago
44. Pink Floyd – Meddle
43. Al Green – Al Green Gets Next to You
42. The Doors – L.A. Woman
41. The Stylistics – The Stylistics
40. Black Sabbath – Master of Reality
39. Gil Scott-Heron – Pieces of a Man
38. Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells a Story
37. The Faces – A Nod Is As Good As a Wink…to a Blind Horse
36. Traffic – Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
35. The Kinks – Muswell Hillbillies
34. Elton John – Madman Across the Water
33. Alice Cooper – Love It to Death
32. The J. Geils Band – The Morning After
31. The Allman Brothers – At Fillmore East
30. The Chi-Lites – (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People
29. Jethro Tull – Aqualung
28. Issacs Hayes – Shaft
27. Santana – Santana III
26. Janis Joplin – Pearl
25. Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson
24. Badfinger – Straight Up
23. America – America
22. The Flamin’ Groovies – Teenage Head
21. John Prine – John Prine
20. Don McLean – American Pie
19. Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey
18. David Bowie – Hunky Dory
17. Yes – Fragile
16. T. Rex – Electric Warrior
15. Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat
14. Alice Cooper – Killer
13. The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up
12. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
11. Sly & the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On
10. Joni Mitchell – Blue
9. Todd Rundgren – Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren
8. Paul & Linda McCartney – Ram
7. John Lennon – Imagine
6. Bill Withers – Just As I Am
5. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
4. The Who – Who’s Next
3. Carole King – Tapestry
2. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
1. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On