Tom was a life-long musician and music lover. When we were kids, he had stacks and stacks of 45s, LPs, and cassette tapes, but the first record he bought was Philadelphia Freedom by Elton John. I can’t remember the first 45 I bought, but for Tom it was a defining moment. I remember spending Sunday afternoons laying on the living room floor listening to Casey Kasem’s top 40. Tom would have his finger poised over the buttons on his stereo waiting for Kasem to stop talking so he could press “record” and tape the latest hit.
Many of my memories of Tom involve music. When we were young, he made mixed tapes which he took very seriously – carefully choosing which songs would be included and in what order. Later that passion and talent morphed into trying his hand as a DJ.
Tom was also a cellist. He played in Junior High and High School, and also played in our local symphony along with adults. He was really good. It’s awesome to see someone you love take pride in that which they truly excel and enjoy.
Several years ago he had an opportunity to buy some equipment and take a few years off from work to pursue making his own music. He also DJed at a few events and parties. It wasn’t the kind of music I really get into, but he loved the creative process and it gave us a chance to work together (I created the artwork for one of his DJ parties).
When I moved to San Francisco, Tom flew out to Ohio and drove with me to California. When you spend hours in a car together, at some point you have to listen to music. I wasn’t a fan of Tom’s dance and trance music and he wasn’t thrilled with my love of classic and alt rock and blue grass. But we managed to find common ground: Billy Joel, Rush, Queen, ABC, and, of course, Elton John.
When I listen to Philadelphia Freedom it reminds me of Tom, but not just because he like the song. The upbeat, fast tempo sounds like Tom’s personality. He would have loved this version of Elton John singing with an orchestra. He probably heard it at some point.
I love that music, in general, reminds me of Tom. And I love that I can listen to specific songs and still feel connected to him.
A boy and his cello circa 1980.