Friday, September 14, 2007

column 5; music

Are there only two left? I thought there were more. But consulting my sources I've found that most of the greats are dead.

I am, of course, referring to guitarists. When people list off the great guitarists the same names come up over an over. But of those names only a few are still kicking, by my count Clapton and Santana. And Dylan, I guess, but I've always thought of him more as a songwriter.

A while back Rolling Stone published a list of the most influential musicians of the last 100 years, or something like that. Little Richard was ranked number eight. And, uniquely, he wrote his own bio. In it I remember he pointed out that most of the people who started rock and roll were gone, it was just him, Bo Didley (80s), Chuck Berry (late 70s), and Jerry Lee Lewis (Old). The guys who started it all are gone, and in the next decade, I should imagine, the remaining few will be as well. Lewis just released an album called 'Last Man Standing', an oddly macabre, yet appropriate title.

We have sixty years ahead of us. Our generation has a long way to go yet. And when we're old, and our kids are young, well, Clapton and Santana will be long gone. We're going to witness the deaths of the musicians of our lifetime. One day we'll all open our papers, assuming they'll still be around, and find out that Dave Grohl died. Or Dr.Dre. Or Billie Joe Armstrong. Whoever you listen to. And it won't just be musicians, of course, authors, politicians, the people who we watched in movies and television.

For the baby boomers this isn't something new. I mean, they had Vietnam to deal with, and many of the musicians they were listening to died before we were even born. Club 27 expanded a great deal in the '60s and '70s. The greatest musical tragedy we've had to deal with in rock is Kurt Cobain (also a Club 27 member). Of course there are others, but Cobain really hit us. And really hit the music world. I'm not sure if they've recovered yet. Hopefully they will, and soon. Music of the last decade has not been particularly innovative or interesting, as far as I can see. But that's a rant for another day.

The other day I was in a book shop, trendy, modern, they had a discreet section in one of the wings for 'classics' about the same size as their 'graphic novel' area. There was music playing, I didn't know any of it. Song after song from the last ten years that I was utterly out of touch with. I'm used to it by now. But all of a sudden I realized I was singing along with the ambient sound of the bookstore. They were playing 'Johnny B. Goode' by Chuck Berry, and to my pleasant surprise the people around me in the bookstore were singing as well.

Perhaps that's how it's going to be. The old rock will never die, it'll be rediscovered by younger generations and be just as catchy as ever. I wonder if contemporaries of Motzart thought in 2007 we'd all still know 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik', or Pachelbel's 'Canon in D' or Verdi's 'La Donna e Mobile'. You know them, maybe not by name, but listen to them online and you'll recognize the tune instantly. For Verdi we often call the song 'Fa ra ra boom dee yay'. Maybe rock and roll will be like folk songs, everyone knows them and can all sing along. Just part of the flow of Americana, like the musicians themselves.

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