04 January 2007

The Day the Music Died?

(Repost from Carnal Reason with one comment also reposted)

In August of 2006, Larry King did an hour-long interview with Sheryl Crow on CNN. While most of the interview was devoted to other topics, most important of which was a thorough discussion of Ms. Crow’s recent fight against stage one breast cancer – she caught it early and is apparently out of the woods. A toss-off question toward the end of the interview inspired this post.

King asked Sheryl how she would categorize her music: rock, pop, country? Part of her answer didn’t surprise me; she settled on the category country. The reason it didn’t surprise me is that, as a hard core rock fan, I, recently, have been drawn more to the work of artists such as Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris, who are among those redefining “country music”. Sheryl went on, however, to close her answer with a verbal stinger missile: she didn’t think rock existed anymore.

Does rock still exist? I think it’s a very good question. U2’s last album and Bruce Springsteen’s second to last album both strike me as recent great rock and roll albums. When their around, Keith Richards and the Expensive Winos is a great rock and roll band. But what has happened to good old rock and roll?

There’s grunge, there’s pop, there’s reggae, there country/rock, there’s hip-hop. And there’s a lot of white noise out there these days that people call rock. Sounds more like post-punk dithering to me. (And bye the bye, punk is dead; anybody who disagrees needs to go back to The Sex Pistols and The Clash and do some homework.)

Swing music became the music of it’s generation; Sinatra and Co. the music of another. Is rock destined to be born with Chuck Berry and die with U2?

Is rock dead? What do you think, all you “young dudes”?


Francis W. Porretto said:

From a not-so-young dude (54) who’s watched, and has been sporadically involved in, the popular music scene for more than forty years:

Rock was, at its inception, a grab-bag category intended to cope with the diaspora of up-tempo styles that succeeded blues and “traditional” R&B. Strictly speaking, the category was never coherent in any perceptible way. Its promulgators attempted to apply it, with variations, to just about everything that wasn’t “crooner,” jazz, or big band.

In other words, “rock” was a wild shot loosed at a target on the move, and rapidly on the move at that. It took only seven years to go from the R&B-derived style of the Beatles to the symphonic-progressive sounds of Emerson Lake & Palmer and Yes. But this is the nature of dynamic art forms: They keep changing, as artists innovate and popular taste mutates. Popular music is the most dynamic of them all.

It would be impossible to produce a static taxonomy of contemporary popular music that would still be definitive five years from now. Hell, I’m still trying to figure out Radiohead!

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