Yesterday Simon and Garfunkle came on the radio, and I stopped to sing along. Memories of my own youth and then my kids’ came rushing in, having played this song for my children countless times… But wait: I’d sung it as a child. And something struck me hard in that moment: all the great music I’ve been playing for my kids, for most of their lives, and calling classics, may just be Oldies. Oh sweet mother of rude awakenings, how could this be?
Let me back up: I’m a music person, as I’ve said many times before. If you read Me In The Chord Of, you can have the privilege and joy of checking out much of the music that I hold dearest. I’ve prided myself on staying pretty current… until now. Yesterday, as this horrific reality penetrated my stunned brain, (Classic=Oldies) I also realized that I’ve fallen a few steps behind in music overall. I’m no longer relevant. I’m out of step with what my kids (or at least one of them) are listening to. Oh God, have I lost my music groove?!
My classics: Simon and Garfunkle (this video makes me feel very old!), The Talking Heads (this ROCKS), The Cure, Fleetwood Mac, Depeche Mode, R.E.M, Peter Gabriel, to name a few, are now oldies. Hell, they were probably Oldies when I was playing them for my kids and calling them Classics. And that’s what really hit me: My mother’s classics: Where The Boys Are, Bobby Darin, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and Elvis (this song was one of mom’s favorites; I’ll give her Elvis) were no less classic to her than the singers I’ve held dear for 30-40 years. When I was a kid and she’d play those songs and tell me how incredible they were, I quietly dismissed them as old. I saw them as a reflection of my mother’s disconnect from what was new and relevant in music. Yet somehow as my own kids were growing up, I put forward my
old music as “Classic.” I drilled in to them that The Talking Heads are supremely (seriously, supremely) timeless. Still relevant. Still very cool. If Talking Heads’ This Must Be The Place (skip ad in 5 seconds) comes on the radio, we all sing along and I still say: THIS is classic; it never gets old.
As my kids have grown I’ve stayed tuned into “Alternative and Indie” music, for the most part. Today I listen to: Metric, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon (one of the sexiest songs ever), Hey Rosetta (despite this ridiculously long intro), Radiohead (could listen to this over and over), and Deathcab for Cutie, to name a few. However, Fleetwood Mac still sounds good; it doesn’t sound old… to me. But is that what makes it a classic? That you (read: I) can listen to it 30+ years later and it still sounds good; or, does it still sound good because I’m getting old too, and those songs take me back? Does it sound really old to my kids, but they just can’t tell me? Do they only connect to those songs because it’s a connection to me, even as they think Oldies, in their heads? I want to believe that The Cure, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode… all of the great music that I still listen to and hear as (still) fresh, is truly classic. Ok, so the videos are grainy and old looking, but if you look away and just listen (and each of these links will take you to truly great music; trust me), the music still sounds like something that might be played today… right? It has to be as sign of something that these songs keep showing up in current sound tracks, right?
Yet when Middle Man refers to Dubstep, my eyes glaze over. I had no clue about what it sounds like. I was totally out of touch when he played LCD Soundsystem for me, but having the Muppets as back-up won me over. He has tickets to Cochella this weekend and admittedly, I only know 12 of the 135 acts that will perform, over two days. I’d be totally stoked to see Gotye (hard not to love this), Bon Iver, Florence and the Machine, Radiohead, Black Keys and a few others. However, I’d probably pass on Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre (together here). I never really liked American Rap or Hip Hop, but have enjoyed some of the Ethnic Rap my son has shared (this one, I found on my own). Maybe because I can’t understand them saying “whore, bitch, motherfucker,” when it’s in another language. I get that Rap/Hip Hop is relevant and speaks a language that I don’t totally relate to, but I can’t listen to it for hours, like Middle Man’s friends might. Admittedly, I’ve only connected with some of the more pop-rap, like Eminem, Black Eye’d Peas (Lyrics are necessary for any Rap), etc. in the U.S. The fact is: I don’t really know what Middle Man listens to anymore. I’m a little more clear about what Principessa likes, and I still influence Little Man… for a short little while more.
The tables have turned. Now, it’s my kids who are turning me on to new music. They may listen to some of the same things I’m finding on the radio too, but they no longer look to me for their music. Even Little Man looks at me like I’m stupid, when I say Who’s that? My music, my classics are oldies for them; and this is something that I will need to chew on for a while. Even as I write this, I want to argue that the songs I’ve listed here are timeless… never-get-old-diamonds (mega-carat, flawless diamonds) of music. That my classics are different than my mother’s, or her mother’s. I want to believe that my kids will some day play The Heads for their kids, but yesterday I sunk in in a new way, that that’s unlikely. The Times They Are a Changin’ (they will always call Dylan a Classic), and I need to learn some new songs.
What do you listen to? Do you prefer the songs of your youth (AKA: Oldies), or do you keep up with music today? If you’re a parent, do you listen to anything your kids like, or have you drifted apart as they get older and choose new grooves? Take a minute and make a comment… share your thoughts on music.
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