It’s All in the Family

Picture of the Barren River Trio in the Fall seasonA few days ago I had the fortunate opportunity to stumble across a group I had never heard of. I turned on the tv to get ready to watch a movie, and the first channel that popped up just happened to be a PBS station. I wasn’t really paying attention to the screen as I was focused on setting up the movie. That all changed in an instant when I suddenly heard some of the tightest, most perfect female harmonies that have ever graced my ears. I looked up and quickly became oddly mesmerized by what I was watching. Turns out, PBS was airing a special on a group called “The Lennon Sisters”. I had never heard of them before, but apparently they were quite popular in the 50’s and early 60’s. What intrigued me most was the fact that they were all siblings! I was amazed that so much vocal ability could be tied into one family. It was impressive.

That got me thinking about the connection of music and genes. I really do believe that music is something you are born with. An obvious proof of this would be looking at the genetic line, aka “my father was a musician and so am I. Thus I got the talent from my father.” What I find fascinating is how this genetic “talent” is dispersed. Some people are born into extremely musical families, yet never develop any real musical talent themselves. Others are born into families that really have no history of being musical; yet develop proficient musical abilities. I know what many of you are thinking – music can be learned and taught, just like any other skill. I won’t disagree with you there. It’s true that someone that has no musical knowledge whatsoever can go buy a guitar, take lessons, and learn to play at a reasonable level. What I am talking about is that “talent” people are innately born with. It’s the difference between the guy that’s been playing guitar for 10 years and is still stuck on G,C, and D; and the 12 year old kid that picks up a guitar and is ripping blues solo’s six months later. Some people are just born with it.

So if people really are “born with it”, how does the trait get passed down? I really have no idea, to be honest. I’m not a genetic researcher nor a scientist – I just enjoy the unpredictability of it. However it works, I’m certainly glad that the process exists, for it’s given us some amazing family acts, a la “The Lennon Sisters”. In my own family, I recently discovered we have a rich connection with the “music” gene. My mother is to humble to admit this, but she has a beautiful voice. I compare it to Karen Carpenter; very smooth and pleasant on the ears. In a lot of ways, listening to my mom sing growing up really taught me how to open up my own vocal abilities. I was blessed to be handed down a similar vocal range as my mother. The amazing thing is that it doesn’t end with my mom’s ability. As I grew older, I realized that my family had a long history with “the music gene”. My grandmother and her sisters used to sing together all the time. When they were little girls in Western Kentucky, the Everly Brothers would come play music with my great grandfather and they would sing back up with them. My great grandfather was a simple man who worked as a coal miner his whole life. His weekends, however, were spent playing mandolin and banjo with all different types of musicians from the area. I wonder if my great grandfather ever thought that his descendants would still be playing music almost 100 years later. It really is a fascinating think about!

How about you? Does music run in your family? What are some of your favorite musical groups that were related? Some of my personal favorites are The Kings of Leon (3 brothers and a 1st cousin), The Carpenters, The Everly Brothers, and The Allman Brothers. Andrew alluded to the idea of music running in families with an earlier blog post about his own family history with music. Danny also comes from a long line of musicians. It’s such a wonderful thing to be able to hand down a love and talent for music to your family. I am excited to have my own family that I can share music with one day. Until that point, I’ll enjoy listening to the music that other families have been able to create together. I want to point out that all of our talents and abilities ultimately come from God; and I know He is happy when we are able to share those abilities with others.


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