I'm a member of the rock n roll generation, the first to grow up with rock n roll. We listened to it lived it aspired to it - and feel somewhat of a proprietary ownership of it. And that's natural, because in one sense rock n roll is "ours."
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The rock n roll greats who are still listened to and emulated by young artists and songwriters today The Stones, Led Zep, The Fab Four, The Who, Dylan, the Doobies, the Eagles, the early singer songwriters like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, and on and on they are all "ours." They are our sound, our sentiment, our youth. But guess what? We're not young anymore.
Everywhere I go I hear complaints from older musicians and songwriters who bemoan today's youth culture and today's Pop music. Our generation complains, "It's empty, devoid of meaning, unchallenging, I can't relate to it. It's manufactured. The music industry targets 10- to 13-year-olds and doesn't give a damn about us!" Imagine! What an insult! How could they treat us this way! But guess what? The music industry didn't give a damn about our parents' generation when we were 10- to 13-year-olds, either. They wanted our hearts and our money (or back then, our parents' money spent on buying singles for us!). And our parents thought our music was empty and deviod of meaning, too.
For those of you with selective memory, can you honestly say that early Beatles songs were deep? "I Wanna Hold Your Hand"? The songs didn't have to be "deep" because they were kids writing to even younger kids - us. The artists and songwriters back then didn't have a lot of life experience under their belt, and they were writing to even younger kids who were just learning about life. Today, our kids (and grandkids) are writing to even younger kids who are just learning about life - their life, not our life.
Back then, Pop music was all about us growing up. Pop music now is not all about us all grow up. And therein lies the problem. Our generation, the "Me Generation," has this immense and collective sense of entitlement, and it plays itself out in the music industry just like is does in every other aspect of our generation's life journey. We want music and entertainment to be all about us, all of the time. And, we want the musicians who are achieving fame and fortune to be us. As a generation, we just cannot seem to reconcile ourselves to the fact that we are not the center of the entertainment industry's universe anymore. But guess what? Pop culture today is not about us- and that is exactly as it should be.
But we whine about commercial radio stations and play lists, about record label reps who ask our age before they agree to listen to our music, about song lyrics we can't relate to, about artists who we don't think deserve the title "artist," about kids who are achieving fame and fortune who haven't even lived life yet. We expect that "they" should be listening to us, hearing our concerns. But guess what? They don't care!
The record labels, the radio stations, the entertainment industry, and let's not forget all of those young artists, they don't give a damn about what we think or about our litany of complaints. They're in the business of youth culture and youth entertainment. And I don't think that anyone could possibly believe that our kids their audience - could care less about what we adults think about their music. And why should they? They're the kids and we're the parents. We're not supposed to like their music and their youth culture. It's their turn! Did we want our parents to be a part of our rock n roll culture back then? Heck no! Do any of my aging music contemporaries remember "don't trust anyone over thirty"?
But guess what? We can have our cake and eat it, too. True, we had our turn at bat in the game of Pop Music - but it's over and we're out. The good news is that we can still play the game even though we're over the hill. Anyone who wants to make, record, and promote their music; who wants to get out there and perform; and who even wants to make a living with their music can do so today if they choose to. It may not be easy, but it can be done. That wasn't the case very long ago. Back in our day, when your music career was over it was over, period. But even that is not the case anymore. Don't believe me? Just look at how many revival acts from our generation are touring again and how many of our bands have reissued CDs out there!
Yes, we can still play the game. Our generation can still achieve success in music although it won't be the kind of success that is tied to today's youth culture. In order to succeed, however, we have to untangle our fingers that are clinging so tightly to that chain link fence that is separating us from the Pop Music diamond, and stop obsessing about being a player in that game.
We really can still do it. We just have to be willing to walk away from the Pop Music Industry and play on a different field of dreams ...
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