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  • Anthony Alvarado

MUSIC THERAPY FROM THE PAST

Updated: Jun 28

What’s your story? I will respond the same way I heard it last night. "I don’t know. But it’s a good question. Ask me again later”. Thanks Miguel for the reminder that our stories are everchanging and that's ok.


This phrase will now likely be my go-to response for a little while here. I know. It might sound a little odd coming from a recognized ‘public speaker’ and ‘professional storyteller’ of ten years to say. Even after speaking to over 250,000 people over the years, this feels much like day one. Discovering how to share my story all over again. This time it's going to sound a little different because simply put I am different. I am here to tell you that I have experienced first-hand how life truly does have a way of writing your story for you but it doesn't mean it has to be over by any means. I know mine isn't.


What I also know, is that I can only share where I am at today and what I have learned along the way. Some will dig it and some won't. That's ok with me.


Back to earlier today. I had a pretty good morning. We started off watching one of our friends and pastor, lead worship at our home church this morning virtually. Which is a great way to catch those Sunday morning vibes with a little dash of faith with a side of hope - besides the band is really great and you already know how much I enjoy music. It all sounded good to me. Shortly after service, I got started on my morning home workout routine. I pulled up my fitness app and, of course, some music to help me through getting destroyed in today’s advanced workout. I mean, let's be honest, I know I don’t have the body type of Thor or any other superheroes or Chris Hemsworth look alike that’s for sure, but I still show up daily to become the healthiest version of myself. At 5’9” and 160 lbs. I may be more like Spiderman. Quick with a lean and mean physique. Anyways, I digress. Still doing the advanced sets either way.


So I am down in my basement this morning and I turn on my 2010’s Mix Playlist to kickstart today’s workout. Starting off with a blues temperament of Black Pistol Fire, then soulful renditions by Marcus King, and then onto heavier riffs from the Black Keys. Yet, none of my go-to songs were doing the trick today. Neither were the often reliable hip hop beats from pioneers and lyrical masters that I grew up listening to in the early 90's and 2000's. Not even heaters from the more modern alternative hip hop scene could get me going and lift my spirits to actually lift anything real at all. I even skipped past new favs like the oddly relatable track by Kendrick called Father Time about daddy issues or Chance’s call to work out The Highs & The Lows in life. Instead the music, guided me to reflect on a deeper past from childhood.


So I took note of music's gentle nudge, I went a little further back on the playlist. I took a trip back in time as I warmed up to Spotify’s Classic Rock Workout playlist. Instantly, kicking off with Ramblin Gamblin Man by Bob Seger to songs by other classic rock aficionados such as The Stones, Hendrix, and Zeppelin. Music that I have enjoyed since I can remember. Many of the bands I now seen on teenagers t-shirts even though many of them don't even know who the band or artist is. How do I know? I asked. Usually get a look of confusion and a "I thought the shirt looked cool" response. I suppose you can't knock a good ol' band tee either way. I get why people where them. I love when my partner wears her Sublime tee for example.


I surprisingly took a little bit longer to listen to one of my mom’s favorite bands, aka the Bad Boys from Boston, the band she saw at least nine times (she tells me all the time - ok, mom pretty cool), the one and only Aerosmith. Reminding me what it was like growing up, listening to my mom turn up classics like Sweet Emotion, from the kitchen of our new home in Ripon, Wisconsin - yeah the same place that used to make those really good cookies. Ripon Good Cookies.


Today’s musical journey reminded me of my little self. Just a small town kid with rock n roll parents, watching rock gods on MTV with my little mullet and all. That's me in the far left eying up that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle birthday cake.

Now, with no mullet, I am turning up one of my favorite artists, Gary Clark Jr, with his own cover of Come Together - originally written by Lennon-McCartney and eventually covered by Aerosmith. As I continued my workout and my trip down memory lane, I remembered some of the best experiences growing up listening to music in the backseat of my mom’s 1990 Mercury Cougar - all black, of course. Mom was kind of a badass back then. More like a sixties baby coming straight out of the 80s like a bat out of hell, playing Bang Your Head by Quiet Riot. Which is the song that was playing when I was being born. Right after was Balls to the Wall by Germany’s very own heavy metal band Accept. Rock on mom.



Side note: It’s kind of funny that I turned out being a mental health advocate considering the song Bang Your Head was off off Quiet Riot’s Metal Health album, was the song being played in the hospital room while I was being born. Looking that album art now makes me wonder if this was my mom's way of speaking out about her mental health back then...or should I say METAL health?


Come to think of it, this heavy metal blaring at the very moment I was born might have been the electric wave of energy I would need to face my first challenge and life and that was a near death experience before I even left the hospital room. I am sure we will talk more about it at a later time but for now, I was really pre-mature. Like fit in your hand premature and it wasn’t too long after being born that they almost sent the priest in to wish me off to the afterlife. Instead, I got an emergency flight in a helicopter. For the record, that means I was riding around in helicopters before I was one (pretty bad ass). Obviously, things worked out because of the amazing doctors and hospital staff who helped save my little baby self - thank you to all that helped save my life then and that includes the heavy metal that helped me begin my story and the music that is helping me survive today.


In fact, I think music has been a big part of my journey over the past couple of years, but that was oh so clear today. As I listened to music from CCR, Foghat, Grand Funk Railroad, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, and of course The Scorpions who I always liked for some reason. Thought it just reminded me of dad but apparently the Winds of Change helped during my conception - yep. I will leave it there. Yes, I was taken away by Foghat’s reminder to slow down and take it easy and just as pumped up listening to guitar heroes like Joe Perry, Jimmy Page, Eddi Van-halen and Angus Young - who is still one of the greatest showman’s I have ever seen in concert. I had to stop and listen to hall of famers like Tom Petty and an occasional laugh thinking about what it must have been like for my parents growing up during the 80’s. I am sure they were one heck of a Motley Crue.


My mom had me when she was young and figuring out the world for herself. Full of rock and roll energy at seventeen. What else would expect from a south side kid where Oshkosh B’Gosh first took it’s roots. She had me the exact age my daughter is now. Smiling, thinking about it all. How music has connected us all today especially during times like these. Here's a picture of my mom and daughter earlier this year. Both beautiful.


The Times They Are A-Changing


“The slow one now will later be fast

As the present now will later be past

The order is rapidly fading

And the first one now will later be last

For the times, they are a-changin’


Bob Dylan’s 1964 release “The Times They Are A-Changin” might make just as much sense today as it did back then. While this anthem for political change may still ring loud in places throughout America today as the nation reacts to the Supreme Court Decision Overturning Roe Vs. Wade, I have had much more of a personal attachment to this song and those like it. Today, pondering to the title of the song much less the original meaning. The same song that had me in tears not too long after my son passed - both my partner and I learning to let go in the midst of hearing Dylan's notable tone speak truth into existence. Times are changing all around us and I know one thing for certain, I am not the man that I was two years ago. Not only am I grieving the loss of a child but also the loss of who I once was. And that’s what I want to share about. This healing and growing journey I have been personally, professionally, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and so on.


For starters, I am not only in better shape than I was years ago but at 38 the healthiest version of myself physically and that feels pretty good. Fitness in general has done wonders for my mental health which I can't wait to share more about. Speaking about being healthier, I believe that I have a healthier spiritual connection to the universe, my faith is growing, and so are the very beginning of my wrinkles. You have to squint to see them. I even picked up the camera as more of a hobby and finding my way as a photographer. Make sure to check out my slowly growing portfolio. Finally, I am slowly getting back out there as a keynote speaker here and there but my teachings today are more about hope and healing vs. recovery and addiction.


I am even falling in love all over again with my partner. She helps keep me in line some times too.

My daughter is about to graduate high school next year and we have already booked our celebratory trip to Mexico as we send her off to the next chapter of her adult life. While her adult life is just taking off mine feels much more like it’s starting over. I was laid off two months ago (not cool) which has allowed me to work remotely from home for the summer (really cool). This has given me space to develop some new healthy habits, start some new adventures, create some new projects, and dive back into the art of storytelling. This space has also given me time to really prioritize my life, re-define my values, and get grounded in the places with some of the strongest foundations like the earth and connecting with my loved ones and many friends here at home. There is so much I could share.


For now, I wanted to get back on here, to writing, that is, because, I think I need this. I have thought about writing constantly over the past few years. It’s the one thing people have always complimented me on. Writing, sharing from the heart, and making deep connections quickly. My self-proclaimed super power - storytelling. Doesn’t sound as badass as it is but being able to tell a great story is more about being able to connect and share to the heart of the issue. Why a blog? Why now? Let me spell it out for you but for me mostly:

  1. Why not? I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time. Besides, I am not working full-time so why not start when I have the time

  2. Writing is good for my mental health. Believe me there’s a lot going on in this mind.

  3. Help me discover who I am as a man today.

  4. I also think about it somewhat obsessively so much so that it has stopped me from writing all together. Not sure what that has been about but I will probably share that here too.

These past few years has brought so much heartache and anguish into my life. Nothing has been the same since losing a child. A story that I am not ready to share yet. The grief still has me feeling a little bit like I am on a crazy train - (see what I did there). Yes, this writing experiment, this healing journey, will definitely come with plenty of awful dad jokes and plenty of side rants and oddities. It will be nice to bring a little more humor into my conversation, a common encouragement by some of my peers that consider themselves professional speakers as well. I am somewhat done with the old way of doing things.


The truth is I wasn’t having fun anymore in a lot of the 'work' I was doing and after losing my son to the very thing I was trying to prevent, drug overdoses and hopelessness, I was ready to throw in the towel all together. Times are definitely changing and parts of it are of course the same. I am still listening to great tracks that have got me through for almost the past four decades to an even wider variety of kickass music. All made up of other storytellers like me. Sharing our life experiences all while longing for connection and understanding of the world around us. Sure the songs may have different meaning today. Like Atmosphere's song Yesterday now has this duality of me thinking about spending time with both my father and son as if it was just yesterday.


Much of the story I have shared has been focused around mental health and addiction recovery and while that will always be a piece of my story, there has been so much time in reflection, so many discoveries, that I want to share that reaches past an addiction or mental health disorder. Today, I want to share more about how I found the light again and how it's growing through forgiveness, self-love, and compassion. My goal is to create a place for questions of mine to live on no longer unanswered. Questions like

  1. What does it look like to live a rich life?

  2. How do I re-discover what I am most passionate about?

  3. How do I live the longest-healthiest life possible?

  4. Where should we be gaining and taking our energy from?

  5. How to raise children in today's world?

  6. What does it mean being a man today? A father? A man of faith?

We could keep going but I think you get the idea. I am very much getting closer to the second half of my life and the truth is life IS shorter than we think. I would rather do things that light up my soul and bring me joy. Writing is one of them. So join me on this journey, or don’t, again this was always for me anyways AND if it helps at least one person, then I feel like I’m doing my part in being a kind, compassionate, and caring adult in today's wild world.


I want to see some comments below. Let me know what music resonates with your life story.


Tell me the songs that you share with your parents, your children, your friends, or on those drives alone AND wherever you are turn it up for me and BANG YOUR HEAD!!!


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