Storytelling: Appreciation of The Oral Transfer of History

As a child, I wasn’t much of a reader. My four other siblings were readers; I remember them being enveloped in books all the time. We had bookshelves full of books at the house. I just never had the patience to fall deep into a book. That’s why as an adult, I find it strange that I find solace in communicating through the written word. It’s therapeutic to me to get my thoughts out of my head. That way, I have room for more racing thoughts. What I do enjoy is a good story to be told to me. There is something about listening to someone else’s experience, being told to you, in their voice that brings me great comfort and joy.

Transfer of Oral History

Oral history is a technique for generating and preserving original, historically interesting information— primary source material—from personal recollections through planned recorded interviews. This method of interviewing is used to preserve the voices, memories, and perspectives of people in history. But before recording technology, these stories were passed down from generation to generation by community elders, parents, and people sharing their experiences with others. You see, a common practice early in our civilized world was to keep the masses uneducated, so the educated could tell them what to believe. Thus, many people were unable to read and write. Therefore, history was preserved by oral storytelling.

How I love To Be Told A Good Story

I used to love to hear the stories of my mother’s youth. She grew up in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC. Her best friend in high school was Cass Elliott of The Mamas and Papas. When I was real young, she’d show me pictures of them and let me listen to records. The first time I was properly freaked out by watching The Exorcist, she told me she used to walk that stone staircase Father Karras threw himself down on an almost daily basis. I was told stories of how she attended Martin Luther King Jr’s famous I Have A Dream speech. Along with many other impressive stories of her youth in the city, I think she realized early on that I was more into hearing a story than I was reading one.

Street corner at Georgetown, DC, USA. image taken from google images

A drawing of this street corner was framed and hung over the fire place mantle in the living room of my childhood home in Georgia. My mother’s way of remembering home.

The Exorcist stairway. Don’t it still look creepy? image taken from google images

Others’ Experiences

As I grew into a young adult, I still appreciated the stories of other peoples’ experiences. When I was in the Army, my NCOs would tell me stories about their experiences in the first Gulf War, Somalia, and such. One older guy I met while deployed, a Marine, told me about being at the barracks bombing in Beirut. I was blown away by that story. That’s one of the first news stories I remember seeing on television as a child. Another person I met was part of the story of Blackhawk Down. His story blew me away also.

Marine Corps. Barracks Bombing, Beirut 1983 image from google images
The Battle of Mogadishu-Blackhawk helicopter wreckage image taken from google images

 I’ve enjoyed the stories of the guys I’ve played music with; I find it interesting the narratives of their stories in the context of the region of the country they come from. I’ve played with guys who come from the northeast region who have worked with a lot of the thrash and glam metal bands that came out in the 80s. A lot of the guys I’ve played with from the southeast region tell me of their experiences of working with REM, The B-52s, and Collective Soul. Then when you get to your older guys, they talk of experiences with The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, James Brown, and Little Richard.

Two of the most influential bands to me as a child

UNITED STATES – AUGUST 01: Photo of ANTHRAX; Joey Belladonna is in the middle (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)
The Allman Brothers Band

Appreciation of A Good Story

I feel when someone tells you their story, they are trying to include you in their experience. To me, that’s an honor. Every story told to me, either by my mother or some dude I met filling in for a band in some venue in Palm Bay, Florida, has been a jewel. They are all valued possessions to me. If you never gave it much consideration, the next time someone tells you of an experience, dig deeper into it; imagine it from their perspective. Listen to the excitement or sorrow in their voice and feel their feelings. Just appreciate them for being human.