I’m going to sound like a cranky old grandpa saying this but I hope it resonates with some readers.
I can’t stand all these new viral dance challenges and dance moves circulating on social media every few months. One day it’s the dab, the next it’s the floss and the next day idiots are getting out of moving vehicles to dance on public streets and roads while other idiots video them doing it. It’s ridiculous.
It’s not necessarily the music itself. A lot of them are just catchy tunes that young people listen to over and over. If you want to listen to “Old Town Road” on the radio for the 40th time in one day, that’s your business. What I don’t like is that people latch on to a dance or a challenge and suddenly everyone’s posting about it.
Remember the ice bucket challenge? That’s an instance of those viral challenges actually having a redeeming quality — it brought attention to ALS.
But some of the ones recently are just dumb. Like the “Kiki Challenge” where people get out of moving cars and dance to that song while the driver of the car videos them. That’s stupid and dangerous.
I wish young people could listen to and appreciate some actually great music. Now I know everyone has different tastes. Everyone has different styles of music they enjoy. But what I wish for future generations is an appreciation for great lyricism and musicianship. My hope is that they learn to value good songwriting and truly great melodies.
But I fear they may never get to experience that.
Here are a few of the musicians and bands and songs that I wish young people would discover and love. These are the ones that I like but there may be others that YOU know and love.
1. Classic Country — I listed this first because it’s my favorite. And I’m biased but I think classic country music — Hank Williams and Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, George Jones, Conway, Dolly, Waylon, Merle and my very favorite Loretta Lynn — are a dying breed. These people wrote and sang songs that truly meant something. Their songs told stories. Listen to John Prine’s “Paradise” and it’ll bring a tear to your eye. Listen to Kenny Rogers say “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille. Four hungry children and a crop in the field” or listen to Loretta sing “They don’t make ‘em like my daddy anymore.”
2. Rumors — I believe Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album “Rumors” is still one of the greatest albums ever made. Listen all the way through.
3. Bob Dylan — Say what you will about Bobby Dylan’s voice, but the man is a brilliant songwriter and was the voice his generation. He influenced so many songwriters and musicians that followed him. He wrote so many songs that were performed by others. Dylan was a master poet and could craft the words of a song like no one before or after him. My favorites are the beautiful and heart wrenching ballads like “Boots of Spanish Leather” and my personal favorite “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.” He’s got a ton of albums. Make your kids listen to “Blood on the Tracks,” “Blonde on Blonde,” “Highway 61 Revisted” and “The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan.” Thank me later.
4. Joni Mitchell — If you don’t fall in love with Joni Mitchell after listening to “Both Sides, Now” then I feel sorry for you. Same goes for Roberta Flack and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”
5. Nina Simone — Nina’s powerful, unapologetic songs, her commanding voice and dramatic performances will be one of the great underrated stories in music history. She spoke to everyone, but particularly to black audiences who drew courage and empowerment and hope from her music.
6. Motown — If young folks would sit and listen to the cool, smooth sounds of classic Motown, they’d learn how songs should be written. Performers like The Supremes, The Temptations, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, The Commodores — their music had soul and style and their lyrics made you feel what they were talking about.
7. Ray Stevens — If y’alls kids don’t know the words to “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” then you’ve failed them as a parent. I hope you can hear the tune as you read the chorus... “The day the squirrel went berserk in the First Self-Righteous Church, In that sleepy little town of Pascagoula. It was a fight for survival that broke out in revival. They were jumpin’ pews and shoutin’ Hallelujah.”
8. Don McClean — Most people know Don McClean for writing and signing “American Pie” which is a wonderful song, but I believe McClean’s best work was on “Vincent” which is one of the most beautiful songs every written in the English language.”
9. Bluegrass — There’s nothing sweeter to me than bluegrass music, particularly gospel bluegrass. Start playing some old Ralph Stanley around the house, some Ear Scruggs, Del McCoury, Osborne Brothers and of course the great Bill Monroe.
10. Simon and Garfunkel — beautiful lyrics and harmonies.
11. The Blues — Many of us don’t know about the real blues. We don’t know about the REAL hard times and the real lows of life. But people like Lead Belly know, and Buddy Guy and Big Mama Thornton and Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Muddy Watters and John Lee Hooker. Tell your kids about ‘em.
I’ve only scratched the surface of what I believe to be truly good music. It would take much more than this column to talk about all the really good music out there. But at a time when much of our popular music glorifies violence and hate and material possessions, it’s good to know we can still listen to the old tunes. Tell your kids and grandkids about good music. Share it with them at an early age. Play it in the house, in the car, download it to their electronic devices.
One day they may thank you.