Lessons played on a bedroom turntable

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Column by Ben Sheroan, editor

By Ben Sheroan

Watching grandchildren excel at the latest video games, relying on “bed-night movies” to wind down before sleep and thriving on music-on-demand services, it’s clear growing up is different.

A 2-year-old can torture you with DVR storage devoted to “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” episodes. A grown man can only take so many scenes with Donald Duck and Goofy pleading, “Oh, Toodles!”

Life today is a far cry from three TV channels our antenna could find or the transistor radio of my youth. It would be impossible for those grands to appreciate the impact a simple record player could have in your life.

Of course, a record player is not much good without records. We didn’t have many choices. In fact, I only really remember three. But those jet black discs left a few distinct grooves in my mind.

Johnny Cash’s live album recorded at Folsom Prison was in that collection and received significant bedroom airtime.

When I was just a baby my mama told me. Son,

Always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns.

But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die

When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry...

The song carries lessons about the consequences of our actions leading right up to isolation and despair.

Another album featured country singer Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley PTA.” It tells about a young mother confronting critics by openly discussing embarrassing community secrets.

Then you have the nerve to tell me

you think that as a mother I’m not fit

Well, this is just a little Peyton Place

and you’re all Harper Valley hypocrites

That song became her biggest hit — and much later the inspiration for a television sitcom — because it challenged a culture of enforced values and human frailties.

But the recording that keeps coming to mind lately was a 45. Remember those smaller records? The name 45 reflected the speed setting on the turntable.

This particular 45 had no music on it. Just a man with a distinctive accent talking about America. I remember one part in particular.

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

That lesson from President John F. Kennedy’s first inaugural speech was powerfully clear even to a grade-school student and his little sisters. It’s about the importance of sacrifice over self and service rather than being served.

Now consider the partial government shutdown which occurred with Congress deadlocked. Which of those lessons from that record collection seems to apply?

Strangely enough, the politician’s speech seems to carry the least connection to today’s realities.

Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at 270-505-1764 or bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com.