Road Tunes

All responsible parents know their official job duties extend far beyond simply feeding, bathing, dressing, sheltering and teaching their young ones.

It’s far from an original insight that people with children can also lay claim to multiple titles, with most requisite skills for these widely varied positions acquired through sometimes perilous on-the-job training: Tutor, chef, fashion consultant, counselor, jailer, driving instructor, doctor/nurse, crisis manager, banker, fitness adviser, mental health therapist and life coach, among others.

One role, however, consistently lands at or near the very tiptop of each parent’s list: Chauffeur. (It’s like being an Uber driver without the advantage of fees or tips.)

Even when one’s kids have earned driver’s licenses, the need to drive them from one place to another somehow never completely evaporates.

For instance, a capable 17-year-old cannot manage to drive herself home after having four wisdom teeth extracted, and there are times a child who is cutting it close for a work shift benefits from being dropped off directly at the employee entrance rather than risk a speeding ticket and an obstacle race through the parking lot.

Does it seem I might be speaking from experience?

Last week, the need to shuttle my daughter to and from her college for a few days of spring break necessitated my spending more than 10 hours behind the wheel.

The time spent with her made it worthwhile, of course, and the minutes she was in the vehicle were pleasant catch-up moments, filled with wide-ranging discussions and enlightening chatter.

The other five-plus hours? Had it not been for the happy coincidence that my vehicle was the recent beneficiary of a complimentary two-month trial of Sirius XM Satellite Radio, I might have gone a little crazy.

When the kids aren’t controlling the dial, the channels to which I turn are probably predictable, given my age and gender. I’m drawn to the ’70s and ’80s selections, and even the ’60s channel yields many tunes that get me humming.

Other favorites are the E Street Band channel, and last week the “Limited Edition” wave was constantly streaming the music of Neil Diamond.

With hours to ponder the question, I was free to analyze Diamond’s vocal style, lyrics and remarkable career longevity.

Did you know the guy turned 76 in January? A month or so before that, he announced plans for a 50th anniversary tour, which is getting underway in April and includes a May 24th performance at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center. In all, he has 39 North American concerts scheduled for the coming months.

Although he adheres to the Jewish faith, Diamond released a new album, “Acoustic Christmas,” late last fall and was the featured entertainer at Rockefeller Center’s annual Christmas tree lighting, gamely persisting in his appearance even as cold rain pelted him.

As I listened to Diamond alternately crooning and growling in his distinctive manner, the highway miles slipped away and I was belting along with “Sweet Caroline,” “America” and “Cracklin’ Rosie,” fighting back emotions when “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” or “September Morn” played, and feeling cheerful during “Forever in Blue Jeans.”

Diamond has been an active composer and singer since the mid-1960s. He’s sold over 120 million records, thus notching a firm hold among the world’s best-selling artists of all time.

Certainly I could do worse than to listen to how he correctly stretches out his vowel sounds (his excellent enunciation has to be one of the reasons his lyrics are so well etched into the minds of millions of fans), or urges listeners to “turn on their heart lights.”

Oh, sure, occasionally a song came on that didn’t hold as much appeal for me. A quick fix of the BeeGees on the ’70s channel offered some variation, or a few minutes at “Margaritaville” or the “Love” line also worked.

But when other numbers failed to capture my interest, I found myself returning to hear what Neil had to share. It might be I’m a reluctant Diamond fan–sometimes his stuff seems “schlocky” to me–but he’s as enduring an entertainer as I am a parental chauffeur.

Neil, “I’m a Believer,” too.