EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared in the Jan. 20 issue of the Jefferson Herald.
Music’s greatest gift is its ability to transport.
The rhythm, beats and lyrics can take one back to a world long gone or it can blast you into the future. It’s rather groovy to imagine myself enjoying the same songs millions of people around the world did when they were released some 50 or 60 years ago. If I close my eyes and visualize hard enough, I can see myself rocking alongside thousands of fans at a raucous concert.
Music also connects us. Bringing together men and women, young and old, and all sorts of other differing backgrounds. Fans of a certain song or artist can be found everywhere.
With the impending Greene County Historical Society concert Saturday featuring some of the world’s most iconic songs in an ode to the 50s, 60s and 70s, I figured I’d let y’all peek behind my musical curtain, if you will. Take a moment to bask in my somewhat limited knowledge.
The incredible treasure chest that was music in the 60s and 70s is simply amazing. There’s something absolutely intoxicating about the sound produced from that era. A stretch like that shouldn’t have been possible.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
The 80s were pretty much void of timeless classics and aside from a handful of enjoyable pop hits, the 90s were rather forgettable. OK, that may be a little harsh, the 90s produced some all-time legends in No Doubt, Sublime and Blink-182 and of course, the mystical Lauryn Hill, but that decade doesn’t even touch the 60s and 70s.
Today, very few classics are made, mostly relying on digitally enhanced productions from sound effects to voice alterations. A loud, ear-piercing laser doesn’t quite have the same mind-melting effect of a trippy guitar riff.
That two decade run of dominance featured the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, The Doors, Van Morrison, Tom Petty, Neil Young - the absolute who’s who of musical greatness. You don’t even have to be a huge music fan to know these men and women transcend societal evolutions.
Before we get any further, please allow me a quick moment to pause and reflect. Because, frankly, that’s what this type of music does, right?
I’ll be honest, I used to think the countless original tunes from the 60s and 70s was boring, probably for an embarrassingly long stage, from age 8 to 19. I had little reason behind this idiotic thought besides a naive brain and a stubbornness to believe the newest generation was cooler.
But as the years wore on and I became a father, began a full-time career and evolved in maturity, I gravitated toward that era of music more and more.
Mind you, I was born in 1989, I’m essentially a 90s baby at 32 years old. The 60s and 70s were long gone when I came into this world. But have I ever come to appreciate its greatness.
There’s a little bit of everything, upbeat jams, smooth songs to help one relax, psychedelic tunes and even cries for social justice.
It’s fairly remarkable how many of those songs influence me day-to-day. What I enjoy most about taking a deep dive into that era of music as a 32-year old is I’m free of the pressures of popular culture. Yes, I may take a few minor cues here and there to get started, but for the most part I explore on my own at a pace I’m comfortable with. If I don’t like the song, I’m moving on. The skip button is a powerful thing.
Fire on the Mountain released in 1978 by the Grateful Dead is not only one of my favorite songs, but my 12-year old is also enthralled by its catchy tune.
Another Brick in the Wall part II produced by Pink Floyd in 1978 is also one of my more intriguing favorites.
The criminally underrated rock band Love formed in 1965, lays claim to some of the most timeless songs I’ve ever heard. Alone Again Or was made in 1967 but feels as if it was released yesterday. In fact, the entire album of Forever Changes released in November of that year is an absolute classic.
Goodbye Yellow Brick road is my No. 1 Elton John song, which was released in 1973.
The greatest what-if in music history is the premature death of Janis Joplin. She was only 27 and in the prime of her career. Joplin’s unique and gravelly voice combined with her remarkable stage presence was something else. Her classic album Pearl was released in 1971 while her breakout of Cheap Thrills with Big Brother and the Holding Company was revealed in 1965.
Ugh. Even though I was decades away from being born when she passed, it still pains me to know we lost her so early. I’m a huge fan of hers, and I can’t believe it took me until my early 30s to fall in love.
Bob Seger, as recently as last month, is beginning to grow on me as well. Still the Same and Turn the Page along with his rendition of the Little Drummer Boy are hard not to sing along to.
Love Rollercoaster by the Ohio Players originated in 1975 and is another one of those eclectic jams that transport you into another world, same with White Rabbit, a chilling, intoxicating song by the wonderfully underrated Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane.
I can’t forget Bob Marley, perhaps the most timeless musician of all. A great talent who transcends even to this day, God rest his soul. It’s impossible to not witness an improved mood after listening to some of his classics such as No Woman, No Cry, Buffalo Soldier or Jamming.
These musicians are astonishing, each one possessing an even more bonkers backstory than the other. There’s just something magnetic about the artists from the era, imagining everything that went into production. You can feel the music overtaking your soul, sounds and lyrics blending together as rich, intellectual medicine meant to cure all of life’s troubles. The spell-binding trip that ensues when I allow a Hendrix song to fill my soul is unmatched. If I’m feeling inspired, I’ll throw on some Janis to allow myself to blossom even further.
This may have transitioned into a column trying to flex my musical knowledge and appreciation, but it was fun spending part of a work day digging through some spectacular jams. I could go on and on, expressing my admiration of these wonderful tunes and the stories behind them, enjoying every moment. Fortunately for myself, there’s so much left to learn and drink in.
At some point in the future, my dream is to transform a room in my home into a listening studio, complete with a dope record player, a huge selection of records, anchored by a few head-thumping vintage speakers. I’m jealous of those long ago rec rooms blanketed in majestic colors and soothing sounds. Until then, I’ll keep blessing my mind with some of the greatest music in human history.
As King Harvest once said, “Everybody here is outta-sight. They keep things loose, they keep things alive,” and that’s exactly what the era of the 60s and 70s did. My musical tastes have pushed some people to call me the space cowboy, and that’s alright with me.