As we get older, it’s not unusual to hear the familiar complaint that our parents once uttered: “There’s no good music being made today.” I once shared this view, long before I was a parent, and in fact, it was parenthood that gave me the perspective to realize there’s always good music being made, you just have to be willing to listen for it.
Perspective is a funny thing isn’t it? It takes years to achieve it. And once you’ve got it, you’re so much older and you could have really used it when you were younger. So, I guess that’s what George Bernard Shaw meant when he said, “youth is wasted on the young.”
Back before I had children, I thought I was so old and sophisticated. If someone was younger than me, clearly I was so much older than she was. That didn’t mean we couldn’t be friends. Just that I was the older and much wiser friend. The same clearly went for my choices in entertainment. I was too sophisticated for younger people to understand me. If they were writing lyrics about things they were experiencing, these lyrics would be about something too simple for my worldlier, adult life. Additionally, I felt like they were writing about things I had already been through. Of course, I see now that I was the one who was being simplistic.
For example, several years ago I was in my car and the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back in Anger” came on the radio. It’s a song I recognized and I could mindlessly sing to the chorus as I drove along. But this time, I really listened. Noel Gallagher sang: “So I’ll start a revolution from my bed, cause the brains I had went to my head.” Anyone of a certain age would likely recognize these as John Lennon’s words from an interview about the bed-in that he and Yoko Ono staged at the Amsterdam Hilton in March of 1969.
Listening to the song this time, I had an epiphany: Oasis was singing about John Lennon. But when Oasis started, it was 1991. They were a new band, and I was very much into the Grateful Dead, Rock (now Classic Rock) and all things not so new. Besides, they were so much younger than I was. As it turns out, they are not really younger than I am at all (at least not by that much, but back then, even a year or two, was so much younger).
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, a not so auspicious time for Edie Brickell and Paul Simon when the two were hauled into court on domestic violence charges in Connecticut. I, a Simon and Garfunkel fan, knew he was way older than me, thought Edie Brickell was in her early thirties. To my surprise, I learned she’s not really any younger than I am. Where does the time go?
When “What I am?” Edie Brickell’s one real hit, came out in 1988 I was a little more inclined to like the song because she used a guitar player who emulated the style of Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead. But still, she was new and “young” and not necessarily anyone that I was going to follow. So, imagine my surprise upon learning that she’s really not that young at all.
Now, to my change of heart. I don’t believe you have to have children for your worldview to change; it’s just what happened to me. Once I had my daughters, I realized I really knew absolutely nothing about anything. Gone were the days of my feeling like I was older and wiser than anyone. At all. Except occasionally my kids, and even then it was debatable. And the new soundtrack of my life? I spent hours in the car listening to music I never would have believed I would listen to. I would be right there with the girls belting out the words to all the songs. Did these lyrics help me in my quest to find purpose in life? Have you ever listened to “Baby Beluga?”
Really, though, the moral of this story is not that I’m not as old as I thought I was. Or that these other people are not as young as I thought they were. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that I didn’t know as much as once I thought I did and I’m willing to learn from anyone who has enough talent, bravery and can carry a tune. I’ll just as likely listen to Lorde as I will to Frank Sinatra and I will be happy to have a discussion with you about why both of them are great. I refuse to get caught up in the “kids today and their music” discussion that makes everyone sound like our parents from thirty-five years ago (well everyone but my Dad, who bought The Grateful Dead album “In the Dark” in 1987 when he was 61 years old, because he “wanted to see what it was about.”) because there is always great music being made. You just have to be listening for it.
Nancy Klingeman is married to Henry and the mom of two teenage daughters. She is a writer, a lawyer, and an observer of life's daily pageantry.
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