From Scott Thompson. Follow Scott on Twitter @foureyedblond or email him at thompson[AT]@borderstan.com.
Today, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone released her 12th studio album, MDNA.
Whether they chose to publicly admit it or not, Washingtonians of every age and gender will be tuning into YouTube, iTunes, and Pandora throughout the day to listen to Madge’s latest musical output. It’s a tradition that goes back to the moment when each one of us first discovered Madonna’s music.
My moment began on a trampoline — 21-years ago.
In 1991, half way through my second semester of first grade, my father finally accepted the fact that his high-school All-American athletic genes had skipped a generation. That spring, like every spring since 1982, he propped me up in the back yard, placed a leather mitt on my left hand, and threw a ball at me.
Without fail, the ball whizzed past my head — or landed at my feet — or bounced off the mitt that was muffling my terrified screams. The same spectacle occurred every summer with soccer balls, every fall with footballs, and every winter with basketballs.
Realizing that his son had far more in common with Ferdinand the Bull than Mickey Mantle, my father had an epiphany. He descended into the basement and pulled out the one piece of athletic equipment he knew I could master: the trampoline. A mini trampoline in fact, which my mother had used in the mid-’80s for aerobics.
His idea proved ingenious.
Every day after school, I would board my mini-trampoline and bounce. If it were sunny, I would bounce in the driveway. If it rain were raining, I would bounce in the garage. Like Tom Sawyer’s friends painting the fence, I bounced with no purpose, no abandon, and no shame.
The problem with my trampoline routine, however, was the musical accompaniment. With no money to my name, I had inherited my parents’ cassettes and blasted them on my boom box as I bounced along. Billy Joel. The Beach Boys. Stevie Nicks. Eventually, after my 1,000th prepubescent belting of “Stand Back,” my father decided I needed new music, so he purchased and handed me a newly released cassette: Madonna’s “The Immaculate Collection.”
It was a revelation.
Within a matter of months, I had memorized every lyric to “Holiday” and “Open Your Heart.” I had become a proud member of the “Like a Prayer” church chorus, and I knew the exact moment I had to jump in the air in order to stay in rhythm with “Vogue.”
As my parents watched Chicago Bulls’ games and my sister finished her homework, they listened quizzically to the odd combination of springs coiling, Madonna, and their son/brother’s voice emanating from the garage. I imagine intrigue turned to horror every time the lyrics of “Justify My Love” entered the fray.
But they never interfered. They knew that Madonna, much like my trampoline, had given my young life new energy and new joy.
This morning, as I listened to MDNA, I recalled fondly those days — when a pair of Reeboks, a boom box, and a bouncy melody were all I needed to have a great day. For 30 years, Madonna has fueled her career by sticking to that same philosophy – and 300 million album sales support her case.
So today, I salute Madonna for giving all of us music that makes us dance and makes us smile.
But most of all, I salute my Dad. This one’s for you: