On oldies

I’ve heard it from a number of my age peers. And the number of classic rock radio stations in the U.S. bears it out.

Boomers love the music of their youth.

Of course, there’s nothing new about nostalgia. (Pun intended.) I remember my parents grooving on 1950′s and pre-Beatles 1960′s pop music, and my grandma enjoying Lawrence Welk interpretations of Sinatra and Crosby songs popular during her own salad days. Nostalgia is a filter made of cotton candy that strains out the awkwardness, mess and pain of our youth, leaving us with highly concentrated, overprocessed nuggets of the past. Honestly, I’m not trying to be a Grinch here. Nostalgia can be fun in small doses. I am unsettled by my peers who dine on a steady diet of the stuff. There’s something disquieting about battening down the sonic hatches and insisting that the music of our youth is when music was music, dadgummit, that has always seemed a little stuck to me.

collegeLike most teens, I was serious about My Music. My coming-of-age playlist was a combination of bloviating album rock (Deep Purple; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Led Zeppelin; Traffic), arena rock (REO Speedwagon, Styx), occasional forays into country-folk rock (Eagles, Dan Fogleberg) and fledgling Christian pop and rock efforts (Resurrection Band, Keith Green, Second Chapter of Acts).

However, in the early 1990′s, after hearing one Beatles song too many, probably the inescapable and depressing “Yesterday”, a song I’ve never liked precisely because I am not not filled with longing for…um… “yes-ter-day-yay-yay-yay”, I swore off a regular diet of the old stuff. I listened to a lot of worship music, some classical (the ultimate oldies playlist) and some pop music. At the time, my husband and I were asking our kids to think critically about what they were listening to, which had the unintended effect of introducing them to the Christian punk and hardcore scene, then the music from which these derivative forms came. My own line of endless questioning of both form and content kept me ping-ponging between genres for years while assiduously avoiding classic rock. A couple of years ago, I added a pop country station to my presets in my ongoing quest to avoid checking in to the classic rock sonic Hotel California.

Yesterday, after a couple of songs in a row featuring tractors, I channel-surfed to an oldies station. I’ve recently noted on Twitter that I realized I have the complete lyrics to `70′s mega-longsongs like “American Pie”, “Free Bird” and “Stairway To Heaven” embedded deep within my brain. If I ever end up in a Dementia/Alzheimer’s Unit, I’m pretty sure I’ll be belting out the part about the bustle in the hedgerow at the top of my lungs, much to the bemusement of my children.

Anyway, I had a moment of nostalgia and compassion yesterday during my channel-surfing on behalf of my fellow Boomers, and for myself. I heard the echoey synth of an arena rock anthem, turned up the volume to 11 and sang along. I sang along to the song following it. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip back in time.

When the second song was over, I punched the preset, where Lee Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck” (thankfully, this beautiful song is not about a tractor) was playing, and came back to the future.

Or at least, the present.

 

And I know all the words to this song, too.

 

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About Michelle Van Loon
  • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

    Too funny, Michelle. Remember that line from American Grafitti (a nostalgia =-fest if there ever was one), where Paul LeMat playing the hot rodder is arguing with a very young Mackenzie Phillips about what station should play on the radio? His line: “Rock and roll’s been going down hill ever since Buddy Holly died.”

    • Michelle Van Loon

      “…so bye, bye Miss American Pie…” :)

      • http://timfall.wordpress.com/ Tim

        Exactly. Although McLean got it wrong. The day the music died is when Johnny Mercer passed on.

        Waiting for the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,
        Tim

  • Gigi Hill

    Boy oh boy! Your photo brings back some fond memories. A smile is now across my face. I too can belt out the words to American Pie. Cannot remember where I put my glasses however….

    • Michelle Van Loon

      Gigi, if only we could store the location of glasses and keys in the same file in our brain in which those crazy song lyrics reside, we’d never lose them!

  • Marie Butson

    I listen to a lot of 70′s and early 80′s rock on Pandora that brings me back to high school and college years. I have to be careful: nostalgia can be like crack, getting lost in memories and succumbing to the temptation to believe the old days were better, especially when the present isn’t so hot.TO avoid the nostalgia track, I’ve got some good gospel and worship music on my playlists…But still love Toto and some Huey Lewis….

    • Michelle Van Loon

      In the words of another voice from the Boomer past, Carly Simon, “These are the good old days”. Crazy to think that we may one day think that these, too, were the good old days. That’s why it pays to keep some current songs in your playlist, though I doubt anyone will be looking back on Gangnam Style with misty good memories.

      But that might just be me. :)

  • http://evenonesparrow.blogspot.com rachel – even one sparrow

    I was just talking to my husband about how much joy it gives me to share the “music of my youth” (full disclosure: I supposed I’m still “young” at 28, but I mean the music of my late teens/early twenties) with my daughter. Not all of it is appropriate, so I’ve been skipping around with the songs and asked my husband if he thought that was okay (so for instance, we listen to “Blackbird,” but not the entire White Album). We’re still working through it, but I know my father (a previous hippie-turned-Jesus-freak) didn’t let me listen to ANY Beatles until middle school, and I always wondered why. I definitely don’t want to have my daughter listen to ALL my music and we want to be careful with what we “give” her, but I would hate for her musical tastes to extend solely to children’s songs when there is a whole wealth of music out there.

    • Michelle Van Loon

      Rachel – I like your thinking! You’re in the same age range as 3 young adult children, and I remember doling out a steady diet of kids music when they were little (Raffi, Psalty). It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it would have been more fun FOR ALL OF US to mix it up like you are doing. :)


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