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Steve Bartlett: The cat’s in the cradle

Camp fire singalong.
Camp fire singalong. - 123RF Stock Photo


Steve Bartlett
Steve Bartlett

Before kids, noodling with fiddles or guitars was a huge part of my existence.

I spent hours and hours taking lessons and practising, trying to learn an assortment of songs.

My to-play list included everything from Stan Rogers to Metallica to, I confess, classic Canadian pop like Platinum Blonde.

Please don’t judge. It doesn’t really matter.

I was never good enough to play in public, but I enjoyed it immensely and, on occasion, I’d be the guy at a party at 1 a.m. playing “Bad Timing” or my fallback “Dirty Old Town.”

Since the arrival of children, however, my instruments have stood idle in a corner of a basement bedroom. I’ve simply been too busy to play.

Between a young family and work, I haven’t had time to grow hair, let alone spend hours in the basement trying to learn the chords to Sloan’s “Money City Maniacs.”

That doesn’t mean learning music hasn’t been on my mind because, hey you, it’s been around for a while.

In fact, it’s always there. I mentally try to figure out the music to every song I hear, including the stuff my kids listen to, like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Oh, look what she made me do.

Now that my kids are getting older and more independent, one of my 2018 resolutions is to spend at least 15 minutes a day playing guitar or fiddle.

I actually started before Christmas and have kept it going, supported by, and blown away with, a website that will play a song and show you the chords as it does.

Very cool.

One night last week, sitting in the family room learning Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” while the kids slept, it dawned on me that my kids had never heard me play or sing.

It just felt wrong. Not that I had brilliant talent to show them, far from it. They just hadn’t experienced my passion for learning to play music. It seemed like there was part of me they didn’t know. And it’s a passion I wanted them to explore, too.

At that moment, how I wished, how I wished they were there.

The next morning, just a few hours later, we were in the family room, looking for a movie to watch. My guitars were still there and my daughter asked to see them. “Do you want me to play?” I asked, with excitement. “Sure,” they said.

So I got out Big Papi, my electric guitar. (All my instruments have names; the electric is named after baseball player David Ortiz.)

I began to strum, and sing, Judas Priest.

“Living’ after midnight, rockin’ to the dawn ...”

My daughter started dancing. My son stared, with a puzzled, “What happened to Dad” look on his face.

Just a few bars in, my son interrupted.

“Can we watch a movie now?” he asked.

I kept playing, trying to win them over.

“I come alive in the neon light. That’s when I make my moves right ...”

“Dad,” my boy pleaded, “can we watch a movie now?”

“Yes, Daddy,” my daughter added, “It’s time for a movie.”

Not wanting to turn them off or aggravate, I conceded just two minutes into our musical icebreaker.

It didn’t go as planned, but like Tom Petty sang, “I won’t back down.”

So while they watched “Home Alone II,” I took my instrument and iPad into the basement bedroom and started working on a Crosby, Stills and Nash song.

“You who are on the road must have a code that you can live by. And so become yourself because the past is just a goodbye. Teach your children well ...”

Wait until they see my encore.

Steve Bartlett is an editor with Saltwire Network. He dives into the Deep End to escape reality and bar chords. Reach him at

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