I went to a trash swap in my city earlier this summer. One day I dropped off some unwanted stuff where the swap was, and the next day I went back and picked up some things that other people had dropped off. It was brilliant, because I turned some old plastic toys in the garage into a great rug for my living room, and a bunch of other things, too. I now own golf clubs for the first time in my life. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to play the game.
One of the things I picked up–as an afterthought, really– was a bunch of CDs. Things I wouldn’t spend money on, but would gladly accept for free. One of them was Kid Rock’s “History of Rock,” which I took home that day and quickly forgot about until last weekend, when I had a road trip and needed some music to pass the miles. Kid Rock somehow made the grade, and he took his place alongside the Stones, Pearl Jam, Jimmy Buffett, Van Halen, and some assorted 80s music (I’m of that age. What can I say?)
I listened to most of the stuff I already know as I was driving to my destination, and as I was getting close, I put in the Kid Rock CD. I love rock and roll, and I pride myself as an old school rap fan (think Run-DMC before “Walk This Way” broke them out), but I never imagined Kid Rock was something I would listen to, because his act seems so contrived to me. I’m not one to throw “bitch” and “ho” around in my everyday life, and those words just seem to roll of his tongue too easily in his songs.
The music was good, though, and I listened to the first 7 or 8 tracks over the course of the weekend. That’s usually enough for me, since the last songs on any CD always seem like filler. I can count the number of exceptions to this on one hand, but I’ll name those ones later. Just trust me for now.
So today I’m driving home from work, and I still had the CDs from the weekend trip in my car, and I put the Kid Rock CD in again. I listened to the songs I like a second time, but since I have a bit of a commute, I decided to play it through to the end. And that’s where I found a song that really spoke to me. I hear about art speaking to people, but I never thought a Kid Rock CD would be the first time that art spoke to me. And nobody could have been more surprised than I was by that turn of events.
The song is called “My Oedipus Complex” and addresses the grievances between a father and his son. I don’t know if this is autobiographical about his own life, and I don’t really care whether it is or not. It just speaks to me, and that’s what matters.
The song starts off with a really good rock groove and some rather generic lyrics, but it soon gives voice to some deep, raw anger one man directs toward his father. That must be where the Oedipus part comes in.
I spoke with my father for nearly two hours this weekend, since I stayed at his house. I’d be hard-pressed to recall a longer conversation with him in my lifetime. The rage and resentment that I feel toward him has taken a lifetime to develop, and is never spoken about–at least not by me–because it seems that voicing these feelings wouldn’t do any good.
The father in this song, after hearing the son’s rage vocalized, acknowledges that things weren’t always good for the child, but goes on to say that he did the best he could to raise his family, and doesn’t understand why he’s hated for that. There’s a moving line in the song where the father wishes that he could take back some of the things he said to his son. I’d like to think my father regrets some things he’s said to me (and I sure remember some of them, all these years later), but my chances of hearing those words from him are likely slim and none.
After the generational conflict has played out, and the grievances and frustrations on both sides have been laid bare, the song ends with a blistering rock groove related to the one that started the song off. There’s no resolution to this father/son strife, which is for the best, anyway. The listener fills in his or her own blanks. The conflict being voiced in the first place is the real point of the song.
As I was on my way out of town, heading back home, I drove past my father as he was walking the streets around his house. He’s not the same man he was 30 years ago, when I was living under his roof and angry at him about so many things. I’ve spent decades running from this as an adult, but I still extended my hand to him through the car window and said “Thanks for having me.” And then I drove back home.
I meant what I said to my father on two levels: having me stay at his house for a single night in 2011, and having me as a child back in the late 60s, and staying around until I left his house 19 years later, determined that I would never live with him again. Achieving that goal was all I wanted back then, and I’m convinced that he wanted this, too.
I first heard the Kid Rock song I’m writing about the day after I left, and it seems to be at odds with the parting scene that I had near my father’s house. Not all of the song’s lyrics were on point with my own life, either. But the place it came from is where I have been at for most of my life, and my hat is off to Kid Rock for putting these emotions to music.