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Generations Of Music
By MuzikMan
(more articles from this author)
2001-01-17
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What time period do you feel is the most important to modern music? Is it the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties, or right now? I think each individual, in context with the time they grew up, can most easily relate to that question. At least for most people it works that way. I grew up in the seventies. That music is now referred to as Classic Rock. I don't think the seventies was that important to the development of music, however.

I personally feel that fifties laid the groundwork for the most developmental, and the most important segment of time for music, the sixties. Elvis inspired groups like The Beatles; in turn, The Beatles created a musical legacy that still has a head of steam, and it shows no signs of subsiding. They handily changed the face of rock music forever. There are literally hundreds of groups that have been, and are influenced by this group.

Why are the sixties so important? The music reflected an ongoing change that was altering the very fabric of our society. We were in a state of upheaval; some of it was good, and a lot of it was very painful. Vietnam was the impetus of unrest, along with racial riots and other social injustices. You could see the emotional pain, unrest, and discomfort in peoples faces. All of that and more were found in the music. Some of the music, and the words behind it, would ease the pain, and in the same breath start a riot.

Music is the grand communicator. Whatever art form, dress, or societal mirror that needs to be understood and embraced by the masses, music is right there to handle the job.

Along with the ultimate pop group, The Beatles, the sixties brought us a flashy guitar hero by name of Jimi Hendrix, and a gruff and brash girl named Janis Joplin. Then there were the bad boys, The Rolling Stones, whom successfully blended rock and blues. Then came the poet-singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan. He popularized folk-rock with his distinct voice, while reflecting the feelings of a nation. In addition, before any of the previous artists appeared on the scene, there was a culture within a culture happening in Southern California. They called themselves surfers. Groups playing rock and roll with some improvisational guitar work created an entirely new genre called surf music, while playing at beach venues along the sunny California coast. There are far too many fantastic groups and solo artists to cover in the sixties; I merely touched upon a few that had the most impact.

The seventies brought the advent of arena rock. Groups would play to crowds of thousands, while earning thousands for every gig. Kiss and their unique stage shows captured the imagination of us all. "Rock and Roll All Night" became the teen anthem of millions, including me. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple were the kings of rock. They all had their own private jets to fly around the world to concerts while their albums sold millions. Don Kirschner's Rock Concert would air on TV and introduce groups like Foghat and Kansas. Elton John became a singles machine and David Bowie brought us a new character, Ziggy Stardust. After this cycle began to wind down, another phase would begin. New Wave was the new music that would fill the gap, or would it?

The eighties were the age of excess and shallowness. A lot of the music that was available was the same. Your success was gauged on how many BMW's you had parked in front of your condo. MTV was all the rage. Mainstream would end up running the fledgling MTV quickly because of the powerful corporate dollar. With the passing age of gluttony and Ronald Reagan leaving office, on came the nineties, and conservatism would set in, particularly on Wall Street. The word downsize became a corporate buzzword. In the nineties, we paid for the greed and lust of the eighties. The almighty dollar once again would dictate societies every turn. It wasn't until the latter half of the decade that people's lives would start changing. New opportunities were to be found due to the emerging technologies.

The nineties brought alternative rock and the Internet. I feel the nineties are very similar to the sixties in a formative sense. The freedom and control an artist now has due to the Internet and the available technology enables them to shake free from the traditional corporate stranglehold. The marketability of artists, any artists, increases ten fold. Online music files for downloads were now available so that you could actually listen before you bought. Videos were also viewed at home on the PC...who needs MTV?

Another popular marketing tool, in conjunction with CDs and the Internet, took off like a rocket... Reissues and remastered copies of sixties and seventies music are now found everywhere. This is further proof of the popularity of the sixties and the music that was made in that time frame. In addition to that, you now can get DVD music CDs, gold disc, and special music sold directly from the artist on their own websites. So music today has more angles to distribute it's product than ever before. However, a major issue surfaced due to this incredible availability of musical content. Now there are copyright violations springing up daily, and on a massive level. People are logging on to MP3.com and Napster, downloading everything in sight, and burning nine albums worth of music on one CD. Blank recordable CDs go for a dollar each! Who is making money now? Therefore, the tool that became the artist's freedom has now turned into the enemy. There was, and is, a lot of money being made on music now - three times over - thanks to remastered copies and boxed sets with previously unreleased tracks, with the catch phrase being: "Now available for the first time."

Yet MP3.com and Napster have been ruling the roost. Now, the same companies that were found on freedom of expression and were anti-establishment, find themselves merging with the establishment due to copyright violations. Like the Who said a long time ago: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Therefore, it all has come full circle. Life is like that.

So now we find ourselves on the bleeding edge of technology every day of our lives. Technology can be our friend or our worst enemy; it all depends on how you use it. You have to be smarter than the tool. There are many superior and dire points about the changes that music has been going through over the last ten years. A balance is desperately needed. The problem is technology is moving much to fast, and we can't catch up. The learning curve is getting deeper with each passing day. Time will tell what the outcome will be.

There is some wonderful music being made. I hear it every day. What I am hearing is a willingness to embrace each and every genre to make it one whole musical unit. There is a global community ready to accept a global sound. Hence, world music has gained popularity. It's an eclectic blend of culture, tradition and a myriad of instruments. So now music is more diverse than ever before. After all, the competition has grown every day; you have to offer something new and unique for it to sell. 1% of the people that have dreams of making it big actually do. Is that what drives a creative individual? I think not. Surviving is essential, but becoming rich and egotistical doesn't have a lot of appeal for the truly creative.

A lot of groups are finding that the Internet and employing several genre influences in their sound has broad-based appeal. It's a no brainer; your audience is the world, so why not strive to fill the niche?

The new millennium brings us a promise of evolution, with technology and music walking together hand in hand. We all hope that it works out and that we still can enjoy the simple pleasures of life, like dropping a CD into our stereo and sitting in an easy chair and listening without being monitored by big brother. The computer age is all at once, terrifying, as it is exciting. You just never know what's going to happen next.

In the end, it's only rock n' roll.


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