Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Writing about my mix and seeing people’s responses made me think about the kind of music I like and why I like it (other than the fact that it is awesome). I learned a lot about music from my parents. This has led me to assume that many people are influenced greatly by their parent’s musical tastes which are, in turn, influenced by their parent’s musical taste and so on and so forth in perpetuity. Therefore, I wonder, does music skip a generation?

I also assume (erroneously but not entirely so) that musical taste solidifies between the formative years that I will label as being between the ages of sixteen and twenty. Granted, there will be much loved bands that come into ones life after that age but I postulate that the new bands will not greatly contradict the sensibilities of the aforementioned formative bands.

Now, I don’t know exactly how old my parents are. I am ashamed to admit this because they both read this blog and I have seriously condemned myself. You would think I could just figure it out based on the years they were born but as I do not know those either I am screwed. I do know, however, what their birthdays are and approximately when their anniversary is and that I love them very much so they’ll have to just accept that. I’ll just say they are in their early to mid 50s and were, therefore, born in the mid to late 50s meaning their formative musical years were in the late 60s and early 70s, which was arguably one of the greatest times for music ever.

I love music from that era. The kids I grew up with loved music from that era. My current friends love music from that era. Naturally, I assumed that everyone loved music from that era. However, while having a conversation with one of my student workers I found out that I was mistaken. My student did not love music from that era. What was even more shocking to me was that the student knew next to nothing about music from that era. I mentioned a bunch of big name groups to get some kind of reaction; The Beatles, Hendrix, The Doors, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin (who i never heard in my house but many of my peers heard in theirs), various Motown groups…you know the stuff. The thing is that this student didn’t. All he could say was “I’ve heard of some of them but I don’t really know any of their music”.

I love my student workers, every last one of them, but I didn’t know what to say. I felt like there was a huge chasm that had suddenly formed between us. How can you not know what Hendrix played? What do you mean you have never heard The White Album? You can imagine how I kept trying to find things they knew and continued to fail. It made me wonder if I was a total freak. I decided that was not the case and there had to be another reason.

I know people have children at all different ages. According to the most recent data I could find in one quick Google search 25 is the average age for a first time parent (2004) and that was a high. Since I’m talking about people who are currently 18-22 and were born in the late 80s (gosh that makes me feel old) I’m guessing the average age of their parent was about 23, just cause. That means they were born between 63 and 67 making their musical formative years fall in the early to mid 80s and they are now in their early to mid forties. Therefore these kids grew up listening to Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, and the like. My students knew who all those people were. They also didn’t know jack about early 90s music. They were too young to really care and it either didn’t jive with the formative sensibilities of their 80s entrenched parents. Thus, i have proved that music skips a generation.

I realize that this proof is full of assumptions and holes but what do you expect from a blog post? I’m not saying my students can’t appreciate the music my folks taught me to love. They just haven’t had the chance to be exposed to it. Now that they know me (and I have music in my office all the time) they have a better chance of expanding their musical knowledge and I am doing my best to make sure that it happens.

1. Close my eyes/ feel me now/ I don’t know how you could not love me now

2. Elephant wields the rod/ While the donkey throws you the bone/ I'd rather have a bone than a beating I suppose/ Either way still the dog

3. Silver birch against a Swedish sky/ The singer in the band made me want to cry/ We're all inside our own heads now/ We are leaving new friends/ We are leaving this town

4. When I had you to myself/ I didn’t want you around/ Those pretty faces always made you stand out in a crowd

5. So they say I was sometimes cruel/ I don’t know if I would say that too/ oh I/ I don’t know about that


Anonymous said...

"but as I do not know those either I am screwed"

There goes that BMW I was going to get you


Woozie said...

That music thing is definitely predicated on who people hang out with, late 60s and early 70s music (and stuff like that) is all that some of my friends listen to and it probably takes up about half of the songs on my iPod. I can't imagine a musical world without Hendrix...

Kiyotoe said...

I have to agree with lil' brother on this. We are greatly influenced by our "circle" when it comes to music.

Growing up in high school I naturally listened to ALL kinds of music because I had ALL kinds of friends with different tastes. And even when I got to college (an HBCU) I started listening to a lot more reggae, jazz and blues, genres that I hadn't been exposed to in earlier years.

And now, I listen to it all.

Except opera.

Johnny Yen said...

It is shocking, but I'm also finding that there are a lot of youngsters who love the old music. Case in point, my son.

You reminded me that I need to work on a post about my youngest brother's wedding back in 1995, and the awful dj's that worked it. They were a case study in lack of musical knowledge.

Johnny Yen said...

PS, at 46, I'm a lot closer to your parents' demographics than yours! I suspect they and I have a lot of musical overlap.

Michael C said...

As shocking as it is for us to hear that kids don't know of The White Album or Madonna or any of the early 90s performers (or, God forbid, Huey), our parents and their generation might be shocked to hear us say we don't know who the Zombies or The Captain and Tenille are. Though I do because I have never listened to the music of my time with the exception of country.

Holy heck, was this only 2 sentences? Yikes.

Great post!

dave said...


look here!


Katrina said...

My brothers had more of an impact on what I listened to than my mom. Although, except for listening to country and/or easy listening stuff she pretty much listened to what they were at the time anyway. Which are all the classic rock bands nowadays.

And although I've enjoyed and purchased new artists over the years I still prefer the classics over everything. When I turn on my radio in the car I hit The Drive (the classic rock station for all you out there not in the Chicagoland area) preset before any other button.

Anyway, that's off topic. I believe it skips. Although I was born in '70 the disco music craze skipped me and all my friends. Except for when we were at the roller rink (yep, pretty much every Friday and/or Saturday night) we pretty much didn't have anything to do with it. I believe it's because of my brothers and their older siblings and parents infuence also on what they listened to. Which certainly was not disco.

But by the '80s we were choosing for ourselves what we would listen to. I steered towards the hair bands in keeping with my rock and roll roots and most of them went for the pop bands.

Anonymous said...

First of all: "Now, I don’t know exactly how old my parents are." What??? How is that possible?

I like music I heard early on from my parents, music from those "formative years" you mentioned, and also music from other eras that were important in my life. Which means pretty much my whole life. (Except I'm with Kiyotoe on the opera ban.)

Janna said...

This is probably a bad time for me to admit that I've never heard "The White Album" either.
I do, however, love lots of other stuff from the 60's and 70's! :)

Mom said...

One of the cool things about having high school age children was getting exposed to a new bunch of great music! It was easy to get out of touch as a young parent -- there was just no time to keep up, plus good venues for keeping up (unless one liked top 40) didn't exist until recently. With you and your sister grown, I am once again out of the loop on current music, despite your efforts to educate us. (But please keep trying.)

Re: generational gaps, it's always fun to check the Beloit College Mindset lists. The current list addresses the Class of 2011 (yikes), who were mostly born in 1989 (yikes) Here's one that got me: for the Class of 2011, "MTV has never featured music videos." Are we all feeling old now?

P.S. to Johnny: Yeah, you're roughly the age of my little brother. "Too young to be hippies, missed out on the love..." And yeah, our tastes do appear to have a lot of overlap, based on the "shuffle songs" we tend to recognize...!

Natalie said...

Dad- You were not going to get me a BMW so I'm not too worried about it.

Woozie- A world without Hendrxc is like a world without cheese. I'm glad to see some of the youth still get it.

Kiyotoe- I certainly don't discount the influence of the circle. It was my circle that got me to admit that johnny Cash might be ok. However, I think there is something deeper.

Johnny Yen- Well that doesn't surprise me. He is YOUR son, and I have seen your Friday shuffle.

Michael- My students certainly don't understand the Lewis News '08 sticker on my phone.

Dave- It wouldn't play for me and I so want to see.

katrina- It is kind of hard to ignore the music of the times when at the roller rink.

Citizen Of The World- Well obviously it is because I am a horrible child.

Janna- It is always a bad time to say you have never heard the White Album. In fact, why aren't you listening to it right now?

Mom- You are very right, children certainly do impact their parents to a certain extent. I will continue to try.

waylon solos said...

hey nat. even though we are age mates, my parents are exceptionally old. you are VERY fortunate to have such hep musical parents (thanks beth and martin;). my dad will be turning 70 on monday. i believe this means he would have turned 16 in 1954(!) my mom is 63, meaning she would have been 16 in 1960(!) and my taste in music could not be more different from my parents. we do have a lot of common ground, though this has more to do with my exceptionally eclectic taste. due to my dad's 50s pedigree, he is primarily a jazz man, but jazz that many might consider "boring"--shit like shorty rogers and dave brubeck. dad was lucky enough to see miles davis (someone we both like a lot, but for different reasons) twice, once in the early 60s, and again in the early 70s. he hated the early 70s show. i remember in high school i'd be listening to 'bitches brew', and dad would stroll into the room, shake his head and sigh. still, it's not like he'd turn it off and throw away the cd. i'm lucky in that respect. as a little brother i too must cite the power of sibling influence, as my big brother had much sway early on. nice post.

Mom said...

Hey Waylon -- do I know you? ...In 1960, I lived next door to the most perfect teenage girl -- she could've been your mom's age. I sooooo looked up to her. Wanted my hair to make that perfect "Patty Duke" flip. Wanted to drive around someday with boyfriends in '57 convertibles with those whitewall tires (closest I got was a pink car for my Barbie doll). Wanted to be those kids on Bandstand!

Those were the days when Top 40 radio was good! I remember hearing Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles on the radio when my mom would drive me places in the early 60s -- she still listens to the 50s and 60s oldies in the car.

Aside from in the car, my parents (now in their mid 70s) were not into rock'n'roll at all. They were (and still are) more into Big Bands (late '40s, early '50s). Or folk music -- my mom was a bit of a folkie and took us to see people like Pete Seeger. (And Natalie's fondness for musical theatre can be traced back through mom and grandma.) My dad used to blast classical music throughout the house on his excellent hi-fi stereo system, which greatly retarded my appreciation for classical music and instrumentals.

Yeah, great post, Natalie! Music always gets 'em talking.

Anonymous said...

Huey Lewis IS the news.

*Guess who!*

Jozet at Halushki said...

"What do you mean you have never heard The White Album? "

omg...I am seriously rendered speechless.

Natalie said...

Waylon- Your taste is incredibly eclectic and has influenced mine to a certain extent. I don't think I would have appreciated radiohead as much as I do without driving around with you.

I do realize I forgot to take siblings into account. Maybe it is because I influenced Shosh's taste more than she influenced mine. Primarily because I didn't want to hear her mess and my taste is better.

Mom- I can see grandpa blasting classical music and I am smiling. It isn't something you hear blasted all that much. At least not in my circle.

Jozet- I know, I'm in freaking out because I accidentally erased it from my iPod but at least it is sitting at home waiting to be reuploaded.

Monica said...

see i toldja you would get tons of comments on this one

Monica said...

oops. my fault. wrong post