Chances are if you know me, you know my family. If you don’t know my family, you’re really missing out! Between the four of us Richmond-Leeths, we have some insane talent (not to toot my own horn or anything, but…toot toot). All of us have some sort of artistic talent, whether it’s drawing, writing, singing, or all three! We are also pretty fun, to put it lightly. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t laugh around my family!
Why am I talking about the Fam so much, you may ask? Well, if you know my parents and my sister, chances are you know that their birthdays are all within the first week of June. I can barely remember everyone else’s birthday, but I’ll never forget my dad, mom, and sister’s.
As the only right handed Leo in the immediate family, it was not fun at first to have to wait until August for my birthday while the three of them could celebrate for seven straight days. Now that I’m older, though, I think it’s both fun (because YAY a week long celebration!) and convenient (because how often do three important birthdays happen one right after the other?). Plus as I got older, my own birthday became special to me because (in true Leo fashion) I could make it all about me for one day and didn’t have to share it with anyone else!
This year for my family’s birthdays, we didn’t get to do what we usually do. My mom and sister usually celebrate their birthdays in Indiana together, while my dad and I celebrate his birthday here in Columbus. I usually send cards and gifts to my mom and sister and hang out with my dad. I even make time for my sister before she goes on her yearly Indiana trip so we can celebrate her birthday.
Instead, my mom, dad, sister, and I had a Zoom call on my sister’s birthday and talked for a good hour or two. On my dad’s birthday, we bought him Chinese food and had dinner outside. On my mom’s, I called her and we talked for a while. And on Allison’s birthday, she came over and hung out for a while while we ate red velvet pancakes. It wasn’t the usual, but it was still fun!
To make this year’s birthdays extra special, I figured I’d make a playlist of songs that I know they love, and that I’ve fallen in love with because of them. I also wanted to tell the stories behind these songs; I figure learning about my connection with my family is never a bad thing to read about!
My dad is unlike any other dad I’ve ever met. Trying to describe him to people used to be hard, but now I’ve had to do it so many times it’s almost easy. My dad is a proud gay man who loves to garden, dance, and laugh. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m definitely a Daddy’s Girl, and anyone who’s seen us together knows we’re related based on our laughs alone.
His third of the playlist is at the beginning, seeing as his birthday is on June 2nd. The songs I’ve chosen are a little bit all over the place, just like him! Let’s get into it…
- “P. Control”, Prince
One of my dad’s hobbies is drag. Now that he’s retired, he’s been in more and more drag shows, and was even Miss COMiC a few years back! One of his staple songs is “P. Control” by Prince.
When I was a little kid, my dad would play this album, The Gold Experience, literally all the time. Upon getting older and still listening to this album, I realized I shouldn’t have been listening to it at all when I was younger! It’s a very explicit album, but honestly I think it was good I got to enjoy Prince’s dirtier stuff when I was a kid…I don’t think I would be the same well-rounded individual if I had been sheltered from certain types of music (although I was sheltered from other mediums, music and TV didn’t seem to be one of them).
My dad eventually used “P. Control” as his most well-known drag performance (that I know of, he might have more well-known ones). He even got me up on stage to lip-synch once or twice to this song!
2. “Hand in Glove”, the Smiths
Growing up, the self-named album by the Smiths was on heavy rotation in our house. “Hand in Glove” is one of those songs that makes me want to dance and sing with my dad like we did when I was a kid. I think that out of all the songs the Smiths/Morrissey have put out over the years, this one is still my favorite because of the fun I’ve had with it in my life.
The song itself, from my perspective, is a fierce declaration of love by the singer to his beloved. I think the lyric “So hand in glove I stake my claim/I’ll fight to the last breath/if they dare touch a hair in your head/I’ll fight to the last breath” resonates with how my dad views my sister and I. At least, that’s how I see it in my head! He loves us more than anything, and I believe those lyrics help me understand that paternal type of love.
3. “Ray of Light”, Madonna
On the way to Dayton or Indianapolis, my dad and I would dance around in the front of the car to this album pretty consistently. This particular song, which the album is named after, is such an intense song. From an outsider’s perspective, watching my dad and I sing along and wiggle around in the front seat of his Hyundai is probably the weirdest thing…but we have fun!
One memory I’ll always remember is when the two of us were singing along and when the lyric “Through the endless years” came up, we tried to hold the note Madonna holds as long as possible. I credit this song for helping me realize that I wasn’t just decent at singing, but I could actually do some crazy stuff with my voice. The note in the song itself isn’t anything to write home about, but my dad and I are both very obnoxious and we held it until we had no more breath to give. One day I’m sure we’ll hold that note again and see who can hold it the longest…I have a feeling we’ll both be unable to hold it as long as we were able to back in the early 2000’s…
4. “Why”, Yoko Ono
I will be the first to admit that Yoko Ono is not my favorite artist. However, she is not to be ignored. Because of my father, I have a huge respect for Yoko Ono’s artistry and her unique take on music.
“Why” is one of those songs that most people hate. To the normal person, it just sounds like a LOT of noise. To me, it’s a work of art. The musicianship is obviously brilliant in my opinion. It takes a lot of talent to make avant-garde music, and it takes even more to make it sound good. I think that “Why” is a very good example of an avant-garde song that sounds good. Listen to the bass, the drums, the way Ono sings and screams and grunts…it’s some good shit.
Of course, every time my dad introduces Yoko Ono to anyone, he starts with this song. I don’t know why. This song is destined to be disliked by people who don’t already like avant-garde music. My husband is a prime example of someone who does not like this song because it makes him anxious (which I think might be the point of the song, to make you feel some type of somberness or anxiety).
Although this song is divisive, I love it because my dad loves it. That, and because I can understand it for what it is.
5. “Just Like Heaven”, the Cure
My dad is 100% the reason I love the Cure like I do. When I was younger, we had the Greatest Hits DVD so we can watch their music videos from their beginning to about 2003 or 2004-ish. In general, we watched lots of music videos when I was growing up. I think that’s why I love them so much now…
I chose “Just Like Heaven” because not only do I like the lyrics, but it was one of the first songs I sung along to with my dad. I don’t remember when I started singing along, but I do remember singing with my dad in the car on the way to school. Every time I sing along to this song (or any song by the Cure, really), I can hear my dad singing along with me.
My mom is just as unique as my dad, but in such a different way. She can play guitar, she can bake the BEST cookies, and she is easily entertained, just like me. I get my laugh from my dad, but I get my sense of humor from my mom for sure. I love making her laugh!
When we were younger, my sister and I lived with my dad most of the time. My mom had her own struggles when we were growing up and I think seeing her live through them and come out stronger made me appreciate her both as a mother and a person. She always worries about if she was/is a good mom, and my sister and I always give her a very confident YES!
6. “Tom Sawyer”, Rush
Rush is my mom’s favorite band. “Tom Sawyer” is one of the best songs in the universe, hands down. I remember listening to this album, “Moving Pictures”, on the way to Indiana to visit family. My mom would jam out and I’d listen in awe to all of the musical talent surrounding me. I loved listening to her tell me about when she was younger and had to sneak to listen to her favorite albums.
“Tom Sawyer” is one of those songs that you HAVE to listen to if you want to dive deep into music in general. The talent that this band has is INSANE. I’m hard pressed to find a song that’s as technically perfect as this one. Shout out to Momma for her musical knowledge…without her, I probably wouldn’t have listened to this classic so early!
7. “Barracuda”, Heart
My mom’s close second in terms of bands is Heart. Heart (and Nicole Kidman) is the reason I figured out my mom was a lesbian before she came out to my sister and I. Her love for Nancy and Ann Wilson was comparable to my love for Lance Bass back when I was a kid (oh, Young Mary). The difference between Lance Bass and the Wilson sisters is that Heart fuckin’ ROCKS.
It was hard to choose a song by Heart because my mom loves all of their music, but I had to go with “Barracuda” from Little Queen because that album was on big rotation in my mom’s house. When I was younger, that album gave me big Renaissance vibes and it was fun to play pretend in that kind of universe.
8. “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, Led Zeppelin
I will admit, I chose this particular Led Zeppelin song because I love it so much. My mom grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, and I loved hearing her stories about listening to them when she was younger. She ended up playing guitar because of her three favorites (Rush, Heart, and Led Zeppelin), and I loved listening to her practice her skills in the morning on the weekends we stayed with her.
There are SO many LZ songs to choose from, but this one is one of the first songs I heard that made me react when I was younger. I remember that howl at the end hitting me in the feels before I even knew what heartbreak was! I always thank my mom for listening to the classic rock legends around me and Allison. Without her taste in music, my own taste would be so much different.
9. “All Apologies”, Nirvana
I was really young when Kurt Cobain killed himself. I honestly don’t remember it, but I know my mom does. She was a fan of Nirvana, and still is. We used to listen to the rock station on the radio and they played them basically every other song. “All Apologies” sticks out to me because of the memory linking it to my mom.
When we were on the way to Indiana one weekend, we listened to this album. During the chorus, Cobain sings “Maaaaryyyyy” and since I was an unmedicated ADHD having little kid, I thought it would be funny to be like “What??” back to the radio. My mom laughed so hard she cried. To this day when I hear this song, I answer Cobain and hear my mom laughing in the background.
10. “Push Th’ Little Daises”, Ween
Now that I’m older, I’ve realized that Ween is 100% stoner music. When I was a kid, it was super goofy kid music! My mom played this album, Pure Guava, a lot. Mostly when we requested it, or when we were driving anywhere. “Push Th’ Little Daises” is the only single from this album that went anywhere (I’m pretty sure anyways), and the summery 90s fun it brings to your ears is something to experience.
Now when I’m feeling extra sad and need to find something to make me smile, I’ll find this song and dance a little bit until I’m feeling better, just like when I was a kid!
Allison is a CCAD illustration graduate, determined to achieve her dream of founding a place for artists to come and create freely. She’s also the quietest of the four of us Richmond-Leeths. She might be shy and quiet, but she’s also very adamant about how she lives her life and how she wants to be treated. It’s been an honor being her big sister and watching her grow as a person!
When we were younger we got along sometimes but for the most part, I was mean to her! I’m thankful that she always forgave me for being an asshole, and I’m also grateful for my doctor and my therapists over the years for finding the root of my crazy emotional self (thank you, ADHD, for being you). If it wasn’t for those two things, I don’t think me and my sister would be as close as we are now.
The two things that always brought us together were music and video games. Our common interests made it possible for us to be friends as well as sisters!
11. “Oh!”, Girl’s Generation
My sister had a K-Pop moment before being a K-Pop stan was popular. Girl’s Generation was one of her favorite girl groups, and this song was the first one she showed me. I remember trying to get past the super bubblegum, girlyness of the group, because at that point in my life I was deep in my emo phase. Girl’s Generation quickly became my guilty pleasure.
Allison used to learn all the dances they would do in their music videos and she’d try to teach me them too. I did not have the patience to learn the whole choreography like she did, but I loved to watch her figure it out! It was her form of exercise that worked out nicely for a middle school girl like her.
12. “The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker — Earth Temple”, covered by Arcade Player
As far as I know, the Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is Allison’s favorite game. I’ve lost count of how many times she’s completed the game (both the OG version and the remaster), and I credit watching her playing it over and over for my love of Let’s Plays today. In fact, one of the very first Game Grumps episodes I watched was from their Wind Waker series.
When I asked Allison what her favorite temple from the game was, she gave me two answers. I chose the Earth Temple mostly because it sounded better than the other cover on Spotify, but also because I like the temple music from Wind Waker in general. Compared to the cheery overworld music, the temples have a very sinister vibe to match the weight of Link’s journey within them. I have always thought Nintendo does a great job with their music, and the Earth Temple from Wind Waker is a great example of their work.
13. “Gotta Be You”, One Direction
I don’t know when Allison and I started listening to One Direction. What I do know is that we were OBSESSED for a good chunk of time.
“Gotta Be You” was Allison’s favorite song from Up All Night, their first album. It’s a very straightforward and obvious boy band song, but I think that’s why we liked it so much. It was clear to me that 1D had talent, with or without their industry influence. Now that they’ve split and started making their own songs and albums, it’s obvious that Allison and I made the right choice obsessing over them when they first got popular.
14. “Moonlight”, Ariana Grande
Fun fact: Allison can sing. Not a lot of people know this; in fact, I didn’t know she could until she sang the chorus of this song at me one time a few years ago. When I tell you she hit EVERY NOTE! Ariana Grande is hard to sing along to for an alto like me, so when Allison sang every note correctly AND hit the runs Grande hit??? I was amazed!
Another fun fact: Allison was the one that got me into Grande’s music career in the first place. I loved her on Victorious and Sam and Cat, so when I heard she was coming out with music I was skeptical. Even now, I don’t really listen to her older albums all the way through because her songs kiiiiiind of sound the same. That being said, I love all her new stuff and I respect her craft cause there’s no way I could hit all those whistle notes.
Allison can’t hit the whistle notes like Grande, but she sounds way better than me when she attempts to! Because of Allison’s love for Ariana Grande, I’ve fallen in love with her music as well.
15. “Live and Learn”, Crush40
Sonic the Hedgehog has always been second place in terms of video games for me. Mario and Nintendo will probably always be number one.
That being said, the music from Sonic Adventure all the way to Sonic Heroes? LEGENDARY. Crush40 is the greatest thing to have ever happened to the Sonic franchise.
Allison and I were obsessed with Sonic Adventure DX and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle when we were younger. If you handed Allison and I some Game Cube controllers and gave us those two games right now, we would not leave the couch we’d be sitting on until we completed both games 100% (again).
I may or may not have ruined the soundtracks to those games, however, because I would sing along to EVERY song. Even the songs that didn’t have music! I remember on multiple occasions, Allison would BEG me to shut up and let her play…so I would hum the music under my breath until she heard me and told me to stop again. I was so annoying…I’m still annoying if we’re being honest. I annoy her to this day when I hum along to every video game song (although I think she appreciates it more now than she did when we were around each other all day every day).
But listen to “Live and Learn” and tell me you don’t want to scream along to it?! It’s such an unironically good song! Allison knows it even though I’ve annoyed her with it for years. You should know it too!
My family is so important to me. I’m happy that I’m able to celebrate their lives all in one week! It’s a never ending celebration in June for us, seeing as Pride and Comfest are usually close behind their birthdays (this year it’ll be a little different, unfortunately). I hope that we all get to continue celebrating together every year, no matter how life works out for the four of us.
I also hope that my future kids have more spread out birthdays from Matt and I…and I hope they can avoid being born in June so I don’t go bankrupt…
Thanks for reading everyone! I know the world is basically on fire this year, so I hope I was able to give you a fun distraction from everything happening. That being said, please consider going to this site to find ways to help Black people around the country and the world. Also remember that there IS a worldwide pandemic still going on, so if you do go protest against police brutality, wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer, and distance from others as best you can.
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Stay safe and healthy, everyone! I’ll see you next week!