My sons have only a vague notion of what music is popular today.
It’s because their avenues to hear it are few. Once in a while they’ll stumble across a song on YouTube. They have iPods and iTunes accounts, but they use them only to download and play games. MTV doesn’t play videos anymore. Top 40 radio is long gone, replaced by today’s fragmented radio landscape. No one station holds their interest for very long.
Ah, top 40 radio. When I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, I listened constantly, and the music I heard there formed the soundtrack of my life. I always knew all of the popular songs. Some of them thrilled me, many were merely okay, and I didn’t care for some songs at all. But wondering what song they’d play next and looking forward to hearing brand new songs kept me listening.
Radio was so exciting that I wanted to be a part of it, which is why I joined the campus radio station in college. The station had a vast record (yes, vinyl) collection, probably 5,000 albums, and I happily mined it for songs I could play on the air. This is how I was introduced to the progressive, blues, and hard rock of the 1960s and 1970s. Getting to know that music provided some of the happiest times of my life.
One of my friends and I used to meet in the station’s office most Saturday nights and share a pizza. We’d talk about life, how things were going at the station, and about the music we were finding. I remember telling my friend that one day when I had children, I’d introduce them to all this great music and I hoped very much that they would appreciate it.
But as I said it, I felt sure it was unlikely to happen because I certainly didn’t appreciate the music my parents listened to. Mom played music at home all the time, mostly pop and jazz vocals from the 1940s and 1950s. I listened politely for the most part, but those sounds didn’t resonate with me. Sometimes when we’d go visit my grandparents, they’d play stacks of 78 RPM records as old as the 1930s. I couldn’t take it. I always turned up the TV or just went outside. And so I felt sure that my future children would consider my music just as fuddy-duddy. (I thoroughly enjoy mom’s and grandma’s music today, though!)
But I was wrong. My sons like my music! I play my CDs in the car constantly, and much of that music has stuck on them. For a few years, my youngest son’s favorite album was Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos, which predates him by 29 years. My older son can sing every word of dozens of songs by Paul McCartney, with and without Wings; he owns several Beatles T-shirts. Both of them enjoy Heart so much that a couple years ago they jumped at the chance to go with me to see them perform live.
I lived in a time when new music was all around me. It was literally in the air! My sons live in a time when there’s still plenty of new music, but you have to go looking for it. They don’t bother. I hope that as they continue to grow up and apart from me that music they consider to be truly theirs finds them.