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Musical Nourishment Marks Generations

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Lest We Forget, Music Appreciation is Also Learned Behavior

By Amir Said (Sa’id)

Many 20- and 30-somethings are betraying their kids. Worst part is, most (if not all) don’t even know it. In fact, many of them don’t even have kids yet. Bizarre? Nope, stick with me for a moment…

The parent/child relationship is not merely a testament of love, it’s an agreement. For better or worse, when a man and woman (intentionally or unintentionally) have a child, they, in effect, sign on the dotted line (willingly or unwillingly), and agree to provide nourishment for their child. This nourishment can take on many forms other than the standards of food and shelter. And the one form that plays one of the greatest roles in American culture is musical nourishment.

In today’s world of hyper-active marketing, massive numbers of people willfully endure promotional practices that are designed to seemingly shame them into buying products, regardless of their quality or merit. The idea is to just pile-drive the concept of conspicuous consumption into the minds of people, and then turn them into a zombie-race of conspicuous consumers, who buy into to the “what’s in” or “what’s hot” line, without any critical analysis of its creativity or actual worth. And all it takes to set this dastardly chain of consumption into motion is this: Take one so-called “taste maker” and/or widely considered “hip” person, have them announce that they like something, (typically, without ever clearly saying why, and using some retro slang that they don’t even understand, like “dope” for instance), and boom…product sold, zombies unite!

Parents are supposed to screen their children from becoming zombies. That is to say, in no small degree, they are charged with nourishing the musical education and understanding of their children. In the early part of our lives, mostly everything we learn about music comes directly and/or indirectly from our parents. Well, at least that’s how it used to be. These days, the marketers, promoters, hype people (and the media-massives that back them) have figured out that the earlier you can convert someone to a zombie, the better the chance at suckering them into buying woeful products for the rest of their lives! So as it is, on the pop side of things, kids are shot at with boy-band bullets and stabbed with out-of-tune (and autotune) tween Madonnas, or worse, Justin Biebers… On the “urban” side of things (read black, hip hop/rap, and R&B), the young (and often the “old”) are strangled with whiny, often incoherent vocals, meaningless concepts, and rampant duplication. And yes, bi-partisanship is in full effect in hip hop/rap and R&B; underground and commercial.

Sometime ago, the notion was passed on that kids are not supposed to like, relate to, feel, and/or understand the music of their parents. Here, I have to provide some sobering context. This “hate your parents music” complex is rooted in the fact that during the middle of the twentieth-century, many white teens were breaking away from the chains of American-style racism, and consciously (publicly) listening to black music, then known as “race music.” By the late 1960s/early 1970s, public attitudes towards race and music in America had all but inverted. And the children of these “radical” parents of the 50s, 60s, and 70s received a musical nourishment that underscored as much as 30 years of the highest quality of American popular music. Some of the children of the musically radical would go on to create the punk music genre; others would go on to help develop hip hop/rap music; and others still would get together and form groups like Metallica and Nirvana… Believe me, pedigree dictates much!

So what about the children of today, and more importantly, what of the children of the soon tomorrow? Are their parents—many of the now 20- and 30-something retro hip-stylers, robotic followers, and autotune accepters—going to be able to provide the quality musical nourishment that they deserve? Probably not. Moreover, by then, these parents will perhaps be so accustomed to labeling their own kids as “haters” (some do already) that the brightest kids will simply reject their parents and see to their own musical nourishment. I mean, let’s open up the hood on this one: Will the children of the “now generation” be impressed with their parents and their music? Or will they be so utterly unimpressed with their parents musical choices that they begin to question and reject other qualities about their parents? My grandmother (a self-taught pianist from Georgia) really liked Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin. My mother really liked Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and Smokey Robinsion and The Miracles. I like Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Curtis Mayfield, and The Jackons. My son likes Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Curtis Mayfield, The Jacksons, and Gladys KNight and The Pips… But 10, 20, 30 years out from now, will the then “grown-ups” really still like Lil Wayne and Drake? That’s not a knock against these two. In fact, in lieu of Drake’s new release, I’m reminded exactly of the function that both play: club music; fun-now music. I appreciate them for that. So my question about Lil Wayne and Drake’s “parent appeal” decades from now is a valid one, especially from someone who has received a great deal of musical nourishment and did NOT ignore and/or reject it…

Oh, and as to why I’m not so easily impressed by any of the so-called “R&B” *artists*, of today, well, below, I present to you Aretha Franklin, sans the autotune.

For educational purpose…

Aretha Franklin – “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”


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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual