Listening to artists like Bob Seger always comes with a bit of a price paid in sadness and melancholy.
It feels like it was so many years, so many miles and so much insanity and so many experiences ago. This was the music of my youth. It was crazy and bold and simple and anthemesque as hell.
And whenever I hear this music it never fails to bring back a lot of memories. Memories of being a wannabe lyricist and being fortunate enough to have had a couple of good shots at it. They never panned out, but that, I learned, was the nature of the music business.
It’s a business where opportunities ebb and flow like the tides on steroids and those who are able to catch the wave and ride it for the span of a whole career, those were the ones I admired.
But at the same time, I was just happy to be a fan. A Dylan fan, a Seger fan, a Jackson Browne fan, a John Mellencamp (then Cougar) fan, a Steely Dan fan, and a Joni Mitchell fan.
These folks wrote a lot about America, which, back in those days was a country not dissimilar to Canada. The same experiences, the same heartbreaks, the same passions, and mania. Many of us could identify, and very strongly with the stories they were telling.
Over the years, our countries drifted apart, perhaps due to the strengthening of our own Canadian identity. Perhaps through the slow and steady cultural morphing that has now made America a different country than it was back when the artists I followed so closely were in their prime.
But the essence of that experience, the power of that music, and the messages it sent were pure rock and roll, in many shades, and the troubadours who played it hung on as my heroes, long after the culture changed and reduced their brightness in the firmament.
These days when many of the musical culture heroes are all basically just song and dance people in glitzy outfits, the songs themselves are almost secondary to the performance, the sheer good-lookingness of the performers, and the production values of the music.
Heroes aren’t so much hard to come by as they are a different sort of creature. They lack the burning passion and pure musicianship of their predecessors. They don’t rely so much on the song or its message as they do on the presentation of it.
To someone who grew up in the sixties and seventies when music was judged on its message value, this is a real deal-breaker.
Yeah, you could say it’s a generational thing. That every generation has its preference and that invariably the older generation always hates what the younger generation thinks is cool.
And maybe it’s just a matter of preference. The people I mentioned in this post have written songs that are still relevant and meaningful 40 or 50 years on. I simply don’t see a lot of that potential in today’s music.
You can call me an old fart, stuck in the past, or whatever, and I will plead guilty. But I defy you to listen to this song, another Bob Seger classic. and tell me it’s not great and hasn’t been since it was originally recorded almost 50 years ago.
My generation, the original rock, and rollers, suckled on Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, maturing with Dylan and Seger and all the rest…man, that was like driving in a drop-top Cadillac down Yonge Street in Toronto every damn night.
The music was a powerful influence in our lives. Today it feels more like something to hum along to while you do your thing. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing. But it really is light-years from the role music used to play in people’s lives.
PS: If you want to get an idea of what I’m talking about or if you really dig music from the past, you should check out my pal Herb Bond’s online radio station, Non-Stop Oldies.