“Music is the power to speak directly to the heart and to go around the mind. And because of that, people’s defenses are down. They’re not scrutinizing the message of music the way they would a speech or a lecture. And so that’s why music has such a power to teach people and to move them into action.”
Kenny Loggins on songwriting
Where do most of your inspirations come from? Is it everyday things?
Loggins: Well, it comes from all aspects of your life: relationships, of course, my children, memories of my own life. Quite often I find my music comes from a place that I call messages to myself, and when I have something that I need to tell me that I haven’t been ready to look at, or hasn’t yet come into my conscious mind, the music will help bring it up into consciousness.
In looking back over my song history recently, I saw often there was almost always a message to me in some form or other from that deeper place. And one of the things I wrote at that time was that my music has always been my higher teacher. The lessons I need to learn have come to me most often through my own writing. So I think that kind of breaks the preconception that the writer already knows a bunch of stuff and that he’s imparting that knowledge to the listener, which can also happen, but I find that I’m both parties: I’m the writer and the listener at the same time.
And you can often find cases of writers writing things that they didn’t know they were privy to. It’s just stuff comes through you. That’s the gift, I think, is to be that open channel for whatever needs to come through.
“Your Mama Don’t Dance”
Music and Lyrics: Kenny Loggins & Jim Messina
Producers: Kenny Loggins & Jim Messina
“Your Mama Don’t Dance” was Loggins and Messina’s biggest selling single, reaching #4 on the Billboard Pop Chart and #19 on the Billboard Easy Listening Chart. It was certified Gold in January 1973. The song deals with the 1950s and 1960s lifestyle concerning the generation gap, where the parents oppose the Rock and Roll Revolution. The Poison version covered in 1988 reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Loggins: That’s one of the few songs we wrote together. In those years together, Jimmy and I rarely collaborated. And that was mostly Jimmy’s song. He had a lot of that already done when I came in on it. But I think he started the song as a sort of joke. He just saw it as a novelty song, a comedy, and we finished it in that spirit too.
Messina: I would say from his point of view, that’s a precise observation. From my point of view, I wrote most of that song and I think Kenny wrote the bridge or something. I don’t remember what it was, but from my point of view, my observation was—before the song was completed—that all I got growing up was resistance.
My parents, my mother, was supportive. My real father was supportive, but my stepfather wasn’t. He didn’t want me going out and playing that, I won’t use his words, but he didn’t want me going out playing that kind of music all night, and staying out late and doing this and going here, and ‘Be home by a certain time.’
And I viewed it as because my stepfather wasn’t into what I was into—what my friends were into—because he wasn’t involved. I found that other friends went through the same processes and then finally getting the opportunity to do what I did. Then, I was 21 or 22 years old, not a kid anymore, but this is still very real.
So, I needed to find a way to write this tune and for some reason, the line, ‘It’s all because your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock n’ roll,’ is because that’s the reason we don’t communicate.
In terms of writing the song, when Kenny and I sat down I said, ‘Here are some ideas that I had,’ and I didn’t want it to be serious. I wanted it to be fun and lighthearted. And I think from Kenny’s point of view it is very much that way. It’s very lighthearted and it was, but what the message really said and what it was really talking about if we strip away the music, ‘Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock n’ roll’ was the chorus on it. And then, ‘The old folks say that you gotta end your day by ten, if you’re out on a date and ya bring her home late it’s a sin, there ain’t no excusing, you know you’re gonna lose and never win,’ that was my experience, ‘and it’s all because your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock n’ roll.’ That was my life growing up at 16 to 17 years old.
You know in the bridge, ‘As you pull into the drive-in and you find a place to park, you hop into the backseat where you know it’s nice and dark, you’re just about to move in and you’re thinking it’s a breeze, the light goes on and a guy says out of the car!’ I mean, it’s like I remember going to the drive-in and having the cops walk through and shine their lights in your car. So, these were my experiences for me that I can look back in retrospect and say, ‘Well, you know, I don’t have to worry about that anymore.’ But what about kids that are still in that space? What about the kids moving through that time frame? Cause that time frame stays consistent, we just move through them.
Huge hit. Were you guys surprised?
Loggins: Oh, yeah, we were shocked. We had it for the “Sittin’ In” album. We just didn’t put it on the album because we didn’t take it seriously. And then we started performing it as an encore piece in concert during the “Sittin’ In” tour because we needed another up-tempo song. And the audience response to that song was so strong. Even though they’d never heard the song before, the response was so strong, that we put it on the next record. We took it more seriously.