I won’t start another numbered series. I probably won’t write more than once about this topic, especially since tastes in music can vary so widely. I must also admit that I’m not a big music listener anymore. I guess I just drifted away from the need to feel or express my emotions through the songs of others. However, I can still relate to that as I used to when it was a more important part of my life.
I grew up during the birth of rock and roll and still recall how scandalous some of the early rock songs were considered. Most of the early rock songs seemed to focus on rebellion or unrequited love (many with sexual undertones). Just the notion of rocking and rolling was initially met with disdain (do you remember Kevin Bacon’s movie Footloose?); but early rockers like Bill Haley and Bo Didley, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Gene Vincent kept rockin’ on and a new music genre was born out of the fusion of R&B, Jazz and folk music. A rockabilly element was added by Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. We had greats like Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis and Blue Suede Shoes by Carl Perkins and Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
Then, along came Do-Wop, with the multipart harmonies that gave us such greats as The Great Pretender by the Platters and Yakety Yak by the Coasters. We also had Do-Wop groups like the Del Vikings , Dion and the Belmonts and the Mystics (with Paul Simon as lead singer on their hit “All Through the Night”). I have albums (mostly on cassette tapes) from most of the big acts from that era)
The early 60’s were considered to be the time when rock was in decline, but it was also a time of diversity for the genre as more and more girl groups started hitting the charts. Several new sub-genres also grew during this time, including surfer music, garage band music and specialty dance music, such as “The Twist” by Chubby Checker. Rebellion and love were still the dominant themes of the music. Who can forget the 1964 hit “The Leader of the Pack” by the Shangiri-Las. I’ve got a lot of that music on cassettes, too, and a few LPs.
Then there was the British invasion, with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones leading the way. The Beatles were the cute bubble gum band of the era initially, with songs like “I want to hold your Hand”; while the Stones were the bad boys. I remember that the Rolling Stones hit “Let’s spend the night together” was banned on some radio station for a while. I have LPs from that era by the Beatles, the Stones, the Mamas and Papas and other groups. I mostly have LPs from this era, although like many I went back and bought the cassettes and later the CDs for many.
The counterculture movement took hold in the late 60’s with great opposition to the war in Viet Nam and much experimenting with drugs in the late 60’s and 70’s and the music of those times followed those trends. Message songs about peace and not war were popular and messengers like Bob Dylan grew up musically in that culture. The Heavy Metal genre was born and very pronounced drum and bass beats took hold. I still have the original 23 minute LP version of In-A-Godda-Da-Vida by the Iron Butterfly. Groups like King Crimson and Black Sabbath provided the ubiquitous beat that some many listened to while stoned. I recall hearing that incessant beat while sitting in my hootch in Viet Nam.
The 70’s saw the introduction of disco music, which was great to dance to and relatively harmless. Disco divas such as Donna Summers and Anita Ward were big in the disco club music genre. Late in the 70’s a new wave style developed with bands like Blondie introducing electronic and synthesized music to rock hit like “Heart of Glass”. Soft rock also gained in popularity with groups like the Carpenters, the Jackson Five and the Osmonds cranking out hits. Hard rock was still alive and well on the big show arena circuit with groups like Blood Sweat and Tears, Foreigner, Journey and Styx out on the road. The rise of what is called Country Rock or Southern Rock happened in the mid to late 70’s with groups like the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band, and The Marshall Tucker Band. The Eagles “Hotel California” album was probably the best album of that era. Individual performers also became very popular again in the 70’s with Billy Joel, Jim Croce, John Denver and Bruce Springsteen leading the men and Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Dionne Warwick, Donna Summer, Barbra Streisand, Rita Coolidge, and Helen Reddy holding forth on the female side. For me this was my age of working hard and raising a family. My involvement with music had waned but I was still buying music – cassette tapes back then. I did like the fluffy stuff that Abba was putting out and
The 80’s are probably what most people relate to the most, with stars like Michael Jackson and Madonna emerging. Jackson recorded his Thriller album ( one of the best-selling albums of all time) and Madonna had True Blue and Like a Virgin (which was also the best-selling album for a female artist). The late 80’s also saw the rise of so-called teen-pop, with groups like New Kids on the Block and other music aimed at the younger audience. Prince also arrived on the music scene and his Purple Rain album reviled the success of Michael Jackson. All was not bubble gum and pop however, with heavy metal bands like Van Halen, Queen, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Alice Cooper out on the arena circuit and doing well. Other genres were developing larger followings such as hip hop and punk rock. I had progressed to CD’s and still bought some music although my tastes had mellowed out quite a bit, so it was probably stuff by Springsteen or Tina Turner or maybe Whitney Houston. I also started buying the CDs of t groups called the Eurhythmics and later those of Anne Lennox.
In the 90’s saw lots of splintering into sub-genres with the main rock categories being Alternative Rock and Metal trends, Grunge, Indie Rock, Ska, Punk Rock, Nu Metal, Heavy Metal, Pop, Contemporary R&B, Neo Soul and Hip Hop (which had morphed mainly into rap). I had left most music behind by then, so my experiences are limited. Those same categories seem to have progressed forward in to the 2000’s, perhaps with the reemergence of the teen pop performers added. Country music also started showing up more as the cross-over style of country emerged.
So for me personally lots of my experience with music was some time ago. I do recall quitter vividly how powerful a song can be as either a reflection of the pain of a lost love or finding the strength to go on after a breakup. The Paul McCartney song Yesterday was especially meaningful for me during a breakup back in my college days, before I met my wife. Music could also make you feel good. I also loved Monday, Monday by the Mamas and Papas back then. I have the Viet Nam era records by groups like King Crimson, Black Sabbath and Iron Butterfly, but I don’t revisit them.
I have a complete boxed set of the Simon and Garfunkel recordings and most of what Paul Simon did as a solo artist. I also have the complete works of the Beatles, though not of individual members after the breakup. I have disco stuff by the Bee Gees but not the heavy metal stuff of the era. I have some stuff by the modern day divas of rock – Carey, Estaban, Dion, the Bangles and Blondie to go with my favorite from an earlier era – Janice Joplin. I also have some pretty obscure stuff, like several albums by Laura Nyro (Look that one up) and eclectic little albums by Melanie, Enya and Nora Jones to go along with my albums by Anne Lennox. I have most of the albums that Simply Red has done and a nice collection of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett stuff. Somewhere in the early 90’s I got into Garth Brooks for a while, so I have his albums on CDs, too. I have no modern rock of any of the various genres or any rap.
I’m not sure when I wandered away from music, but it doesn’t have much of a roll in my life anymore. Sure I have music on my iPhone and playlists all set up and I have ear buds in every coat; but it’s that I don’t use them very often. I can’t even say what I would take with me to a dessert island if I was to be stranded there. Perhaps I would just relax and listen to the sea.
Music can just be something in the background like noise or it can move us greatly. What songs have had great meaning in your life? What events do you relate to a particular song? What song can bring a tear to your eyes? Try this country song by George Jones, considered by many to be the saddest song ever written. If that didn’t work, then here’s a site that advertises the 28 saddest songs ever. If you need a good cry, go there. There are also songs that make you feel good. Here’s one site’s top ten list for feel good songs.
What music would you take with you to that dessert island?