Commentary

Talking 'Bout My Ge-Ge-Generation

Saying he deplores the lack of understanding about the importance of history and tradition among today's kids "who have no tradition other than slavish devotion to pop fads, digital social media and Cheetos," Mike Crosson, publisher of SocialMediopolis.com, is especially upset about music. Said he: "My father taught me about the Big Bands and Sinatra, and while it wasn't my choice of music, I at least listened and learned when I was a teenager. Kids today don't, for the most part. They don't expand their selection and listen to classical or Latin or International music or anything else other than pop rock and rap. They seem extremely insular and opinionated and obsessed with presentation rather than substance. In a word, they are blissfully and willfully ignorant."

While I am certain this is a refrain familiar to anyone with teens under management, it made me wonder if the electronic age is solely to blame for this condition. Just as Mike's dad introduced him to the music of his formative years, so did mine, but I took a greater interest in the history and sociology that produced "We'll Meet Again" and "Autumn Leaves." If you are of a certain age, your parents were raised in the Depression, went to war in Europe or The Pacific or Vietnam and lived out the GI Bill-funded "suburban dream." The music they played was strongly associated with those eras, often a direct reflection of their experiences within them.

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You could not listen to Big Band and not think of World War II. You couldn't listen to swing and early rock and roll and not conjure images of your parents in their cocktail dresses and jackets and ties (remember them?). Perhaps it is our fault that our kids have only a passing interest in our music because we don't have thunderous events to tie it back to. Although Vietnam spawned a dozen movie soundtracks, it really only produced "The Ballad of the Green Berets" as any kind of affirmative anthem, Country Joe and the Fish notwithstanding.

How do you explain to your kids that you listened to the Moody Blues on the downward slope of an acid trip or were so stoned at the Allman Brothers concerts that they were 20 rows in front of you and you don't remember seeing them? Or you left the Black Sabbath concert because you HAD to get a couple dozen donuts before the stores closed? Or that you should only listen to Harry Nilsson's "The Point" if you have the psychedelic picture booklet that came in the album or that if you go see The Rocky Horror Picture Show you have to take a squirt gun and a pocket of rice?

Somehow all of that pales in comparison to troops marching off to save freedom to the music of The Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller. Yes, there is music associated with the anti-war movement of the 60s and 70s, the fight for civil rights and feminism, sexual liberation, and the start of the environmental movement, but John Denver was no Nat King Cole and Helen Reddy was no Billie Holiday.

All of my kids went through the phase of "discovering" the Rolling Stones or The Beatles or Jimi Hendrix, but soon moved on to hardcore ghetto rap or hip hop or whatever is featured on Rock Band. They took away no cultural context except to ask us if we were hippies. You would think that with ready online access to the music and history of the 60s, 70s and 80s that our kids would take something of an interest in whatever traditions or history developed around music when we were their age. But they don't -- not for long, anyway. Clearly, we were not The Greatest Generation.

3 comments about "Talking 'Bout My Ge-Ge-Generation".
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  1. Bill Battle from Freelance, March 19, 2010 at 12:23 p.m.

    Hey, when Mike was getting his big band music appreciation class from his father, the history book on recorded music was very small. As for what evolved from the 50's into the classic popular music of the 60's, if you can only think of John Denver and Helen Reddy, then I think it's time for you to take a class on the subject.

    The popular music of the 60's & 70's will never have to look up to the music of the 40's. It's not today's kids who don't have a sense of history about music from 60-70 years ago it's you not having any sense of it from 40-50 years ago.

  2. Amy Fanter from Odds On Promotions, March 19, 2010 at 2:06 p.m.

    Funny, my 8 year-old has an incredible appreciation for all manner of music ranging from Mozart to Louie Armstrong to The Clash. Maybe that's because I havent been one to numb my brain with psychotropics ... or maybe its because we actually take the time to share our passion for all forms of music with our kid and help create the understandign that jazz and blues gave birth to rock and rap. If a parent doesnt teach what makes Hendricks, Dylan, Lennon or - heck, even Fredie Mercury great, - or show how they have directly influenced today's artists then then its no wonder the kids don't know. Another example of how this Boomer/"me" generation has yet again short-changed their kids through their own selfishness.

  3. Jamie Dunham from Jamie Dunham | Brand Solutions, March 25, 2010 at 7:35 a.m.

    I am a boomer that tried to teach my kids about musical history. We walked the streets of Memphis and Nashville. Talked about big band. Listened to the oldies. Went to Stones concerts together. Bought Tejano music. Wore our Jimi Hendrix t-shirts. And fortunately for them, they went to a school that put the Beatles and Mozart on an even playing field. And today, my daughter works at the GRAMMY Museum in LA where all the genres are celebrated in a way that you would appreciate.

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