The other day I began to wonder if rock and roll is dead, or at least gasping for its final breaths.
Granted, I am not the target audience for popular music so my opinion is certainly tainted. In order to make this as “scientific” as I could, I presented the question to my college-student son. After all, he is in the mix of great Indie music bands and certainly aware of the giant wave of pop music permeating the world.
“Do you think,” I asked, “in 30 years we’ll be listening to the artists and music from current artists like we do classic rock?"
“Hmmm,” he said, giving himself to think for a moment.
“You know what I mean,” I continued. “Like how everyone still seems to listen to music from the late 1960s and 1970s and a bit of the ’80s.”
Simple math will tell you society is still holding on tightly to music first hitting the charts nearly 50 years ago. If I apply the same formula to my life it would mean I was listening to music from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. I can promise you about the only artist I knew from the 1950s was a slick-haired singer with swiveling hips named Elvis.
My son, who now buys music on large, oversized discs called LPs (yes, they are back), mused for a moment. He grew up in a household filled with the sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pink Floyd and the Beatles. He learned an honest appreciation of music from the past several decades, although never did he consider it “his music.”
“No way,” he said. “Maybe a few, but not many.”
He felt with the exception of a handful of bands after the periods – Nirvana for one – the popular music world was rather barren of what would become timeless music.
This from a student who came back after one semester asking me if I’d ever heard of an artist named Bob Dylan.
Today’s popular music, he shared with me, is all overly produced to create a certain sound – a sound of “sameness.”
One has to wonder about the future of music when a band with a 62-year-old lead singer owned the best-selling album a few years ago (AC/DC). Although there is a generational and demographic appeal to such a band, how do you explain the broad range of listeners? When the band first broke in 1973, did anyone imagine its music would become the theme promotional sound for a comic book character jumping to the big screen as it did with “Iron Man?”
It is as if one day we will all be listening to greatest-hits music, as nothing new is being created that can sustain momentum or move across generations.
But I could be all wrong on this — I wonder if they ever said that about those young punks named Ludwig van or Wolfgang Amadeus?
(Woolsey is publisher of the Times-Georgian.)