The No. 1 song the day I was born was “The Long and Winding Road” by The Beatles. It was their 20th and last No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Top 100 in the United States. And it’s a fitting song for the beginning of my life’s musical soundtrack because (1) it’s been a long and winding road and (B) The Beatles have been at both ends of it.
Recently we watched Peter Jackson’s three-part rock doc “Let It Be” about The Beatles’ final recording sessions. It was interesting but not fascinating. The main takeaway was that they had run their course as a group and had become four individuals — well, five individuals if you count Billy Preston, the organist who just happened to drop by the studio and wound up improving the album immensely. (Click here for my review.)
The problem — and it’s one a lot of folks seem to encounter when they get about my age — is that when it comes to the music I most often listen to, it’s music from the past. The long and winding road apparently is just a long and winding circle. I’m just glad that folks like Peter Jackson, Rick Rubin and Paul McCartney are keeping The Beatles alive. And I’m thankful the Rolling Stones paved the way for great musicians to perform stadium shows into their 80s.
In the past decade alone, I’ve seen the Stones, McCartney, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Jimmy Buffett and others who were stars before I was old enough to strum three chords on a guitar. And they all put on great shows and appeared to be having a great time. They certainly don’t need the money. They do it for the love of music and their fans.
Why many of the younger music stars are doing what they do, however, is a bit of mystery? I assume is merely to torture people over the age of 40 who still have ears. Then again, it could be the money. Bad artists of today make way more money than the greatest artists of yesterday.
It used to bug the heck out of me when I was a kid and then a teenager when folks in my current age group would bash the music I liked back in the 1970s and 1980s as terrible. Now, I feel the same way about the music I hear today.
I was a teenager before I really discovered country music, about the time Clint Black and Garth Brooks were starting out. Then I dove deeper. I saw Merle Haggard live in a honky tonk and saw Hank Williams Jr. perform in the same show with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Diving deeper, I realized how great Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash were. I loved country music. And then the artists of today like Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan came along and ruined it all. And that’s a real shame since they’re both from my home state of Georgia. Sorry, world, but don’t forget we also gave you the likes of Ray Charles, James Brown and Jerry Reed.
I also loved a lot of rap music growing up. I had cassette tapes by LL Cool J, Ice-T, Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, and Kool Moe Dee. My first concert was the Beastie Boys in Columbus, when they got thrown off stage, and it was only a few years ago that I finally saw Run-DMC live. But today’s rap with all the “Lils” out there sounds horribly redundant to me, and every song seem a bit heavy on the n-word and the f-word as gratuitous crutches in lieu of lyrical excellence.
Yes, if you’re 16, 25 or even 35, I probably hate the music you love. But, then again, I don’t even like the new music of my own favorite artists. I had all of Prince’s music from the 1980s, and was disappointed in all of his post 1990s work that critics would tease as “Prince returning to classic form.” Um, no. And while Jimmy Buffett is a deity in my world, I’m more of a old testament Parrothead and like only a small handful of songs he’s released since 1994. As for The Beatles, “Let It Be” is among their worst albums. But these folks produced plenty of outstanding work ahead of their duds, as opposed to today’s music stars who start and finish with duds.
So, my Spotify playlist has a lot of old Buffett, Beatles, AC/DC, Willie Nelson, Prince, Eagles, Steely Dan and Stevie Ray Vaughn. And my Sirius XM has 70s on 7 and 80s on 8 among its presets.
There’s a little hope country may survive with talented folks like Chris Stapleton and Whiskey Myers. Otherwise, every song basically sounds like some version of “I Once Rode in a Pickup with a Gun Rack in a Small-Town and Love Jesus and the Flag.” You trying to convince yourself or me that you’re country?
As for pop, most of it — with a few exceptions like Ed Sheeran and Adele — sounds so manufactured now. And I haven’t liked a rap song in 30 years. Granted, I hear most it it now when I fill up at the gas station and am serenaded by the boom-boom cars of boys who need a lot of attention because their mommies didn’t love them enough.
So, yes, I’m old. I’m willing to admit it if you young folks admit that most of your music today really stinks.