Music From My Childhood

I am still glowing from my birthday celebration a week ago which only confirms that I did the right thing. When I close my eyes and take my mind back to the experience of my first full live classical opera experience, I can hear every note and feel the energy of what is by far my favorite Rossini work.

(Clip from the June 23, 2018, performance of The Barber of Seville during Opera in the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, Arkansas)

Did y’all know I LOVE opera?

No, seriously, I love music, but opera has been an obsession of mine since early childhood. What’s funny to me is how that came to be.

I grew up during the reintroduction of Merrie Melodies (Directed by Chuck Jones) which to this day continues to be a part of the Warner Brothers family and laced throughout those shorts (and the companion series of Looney Tunes) was a regular dosing of these intricate classical compositions and larger than life voices.

The inclusion of these works was genius in that it seeded that music into my conscious so well that well into my adulthood, I can pick out a classical piece in passing and usually match it to a composer. Music directors Bernard Brown, Norman Spencer, Carl Stalling, Milt Franklyn and William Lava gave me, and generations of children, a tremendous gift.

My favorite short from Merrie Melodies is and will forever be, “What’s Opera, Doc?” which featured the work of Wagner (swoon). The cartoon laid over the music as a chase and a tragic tale of love and loss and comedy and there is a lot smashed into that 6:49 run time.

Mel Blanc (Bugs) and Arthur Q. Bryan (Elmer) played with Flight of the Valkyries in a way that was both fun and memorable (and before anyone goes there, no, I am not advocating violence against animals).

I would not trade my childhood for another period of time. We 80’s babies had access and exposure of one of the most explosive periods of recent times. Yes, I know millenials Have claim of the internet boom, but before there was mass internet access, there were Saturday morning cartoon with Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies leading the pack. I owe a lot to those cartoons for opening to my mind many things that were not a part of my regular every day life. Those cartoons encouraged me to dream and question and explore which is something I don’t recognize in much of the children’s tv programming I see today.

While the crew at Warner Brothers didn’t get everything right (11 shorts known as the Infamous 11 were pulled due to racial and ethnic characterizations) the overall body of work is a treasurer that I hope to share with my kids one day.

What was your favorite cartoon growing up? Did you notice the music in the background?

Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.

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