Sunday, July 31, 2011

Music: The Soundtrack of our Lives

Some people limit themselves to only one type of music. I have never understood this. Some only like heavy metal, some only like country or blues. I think that there are outstanding musicians in every genre, so no way would I want to limit myself to just one type of music. Often times one can learn about one type of music by listening to another type that is related. Country fans may get introduced to bluegrass or Southern Rock by way of country artists that may discuss their influences.

Listening to just one kind of music for one's life would be like only eating Italian food, never to taste a burrito or a serving of sweet and sour shrimp. Some are passionate about food, or playing sports, or fishing. For me, music has always been my passion. The only thing that comes close is my interest in film.

In the 1970s, I was introduced to much of my favorite music by way of my 4 older brothers. I looked up to all of them in many ways. I recall some of their 45 rpm records included some by Michael Jackson ("Rockin' Robin"), The Beatles ("Day Tripper"), and Chicago ("Saturday in the Park"). I recall listening to those as well as finding some musicians I liked such as ELO, Barry Manilow (my brothers teased me endlessly about listening to his music), and The Bee Gees. It was the 1970s after all. I recall that one of my first vinyl albums was "Out of the Blue" by Electric Light Orchestra. I was transfixed by the cover art of a spaceship. I think back to the carefree days of listening to "Disco Inferno" by The Tramps while sitting on my bunk bed reading magazines.

The music of the 1980s will always be sentimental to me since those were the years I was in junior high, high school, and most of college. Most people look back on music from those formative years as the best music they have heard since those songs provided the soundtrack for many of the most important happenings in our lives. I will always like Van Halen, Rush, Beastie Boys, Duran Duran and so much of the music from that period. Some of my classmates in high school liked Rush very much so I got into their music as well. I was envious of the kids who witnessed a live concert by Beastie Boys and had the t-shirts to prove it. Back then we had more time to pay attention to music. We did not have the worries that grown ups do such as concerns about our job, finances, or marriage/kids. Music, movies and TV shows of the 1980s will always be important to me. I cannot hear Chicago's "You're the Inspiration" without taking me back to the days of listening to that song over and over on my Sony Walkman cassette player. I would listen to it and think of the girl I had a crush on. "Purple Rain" by Prince and Foreigner's "I Wanna Know What Love Is" will always be bittersweet to me. Those songs were the ones I recall playing at the high school dances after the football and basketball games. In the small town high school cafeteria, those songs would blast through the speakers, and as an adolescent boy there were so many girls I wanted to ask to dance, but seldom had the guts to do so. Nevertheless, those songs make me think of missed opportunities fueled by my feelings of self doubt. One of the best fast songs that was played at the dance was Morris Day and The Time's "The Bird". Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me with Science" takes me back to high school the minute I hear it as well as The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian". Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was such a phenomenon during the 1980s. I don't know if I will ever experience another musical artist who possessed his raw talent. In 1988, I was a counselor at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and some of my campers were hardcore Led Zeppelin fans, and I became one as well. I can't hear Van Halen's OU812 album without thinking of that fantastic summer.

The music of Beastie Boys led me to appreciate music by Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, The Fat Boys, Kid and Play, Young MC, Tone Loc, and so many more. I recall in 1990-91, that was the time of MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice and 3rd Bass. I still listen to 3rd Bass ("The Gas Face", "Pop Goes the Weasel") a lot, as well as the solo projects put out by members MC Serch and Prime Minister Pete Nice. Around 1992 I began to lose interest in rap since it became all about glamorizing crime, and degrading women. Other than Beastie Boys, I do not follow the rap that is currently being released. Rap in the 1980s was simply about having fun.

The early 1990s saw the rise of hard rock groups like Dangerous Toys, Slaughter and many others I still enjoy. This was a period of decline for the "Hair bands" like Motley Crue, Poison and Cinderella. The grunge period happened and with it we learned about Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and others. I like all of these groups, and the movie Singles, written and directed by Cameron Crowe, was all about this period. Some members of the grunge groups had small parts in that film.

In the mid-1990s I discovered country music when I heard "Chattahoochie" by Alan Jackson. I became a fan of his as well as Travis Tritt, Garth Brooks, Sammy Kershaw, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, and so many more. Travis Tritt became my favorite country artist who I have seen perform 5 times, and through him I learned of his love for Southern Rock such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, Charlie Daniels and the like. Travis also greatly was influenced by the country outlaws like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Hank Williams Jr. My love of country music led me to not only discover Southern Rock, but bluegrass as well.

I think it was 1997 where the world embraced ska music by artists like Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, and No Doubt. I had enjoyed the ska of the group Madness in the 1980s but never explored the genre much until the late 1990s. I came to really enjoy the fun, upbeat music that has horns and often a tongue-in-cheek attitude. 1998 saw the rise of big band music like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Brian Setzer Orchestra, and Squirrel Nut Zippers. Big band music was nothing new, but these groups brought back the sound that was popular when my parents were growing up in the 1930s and 1940s. Being a "band geek" and a fan of horns, I enjoyed it. I also have always had great admiration for the group Chicago and their amazing horn section.

The 1990s and into the 2000s saw the rise of alternative rock like Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, System of a Down, Disturbed, and others. Depending on my mood sometimes I like the aggression and intensity of this music, also some heavy metal bands like Pantera, Megadeth, Metallica, and Stuck Mojo. Music like that can provide great motivation if one is exercising. This period of the 1990s and into the 2000s also saw the rise of punk bands like Blink 182, Green Day and Good Charlotte and I like their music a lot.

At around age 35, in 2005, I started to lose interest in much of the music that was being played on the radio. I delved deeper into classic rock of the 1970s and 1980s. I think that most people eventually lose interest in current music.

One day I might feel like listening to lots of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers. The next day it may be lots of ska like Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Reel Big Fish. Some days it's all country like Travis Tritt and Sammy Kershaw. Maybe I feel like lots of Buddy Rich or Harry Connick Jr. Anyway, there are many "flavors" of music out there. Don't limit yourself to just one, try them all. There's only 2 types of music, good and bad.