I Listen To Dead People
The other day, as I was scanning through Facebook—carefully avoiding any political discussions or, for that matter, anything else that could be considered even remotely controversial—I came across a meme that caught my attention:
As soon as I posted it, discussion ensued. Where was Tom Petty? Janis Joplin? George Harrison? Bon Scott?
And from the country side of things, I was questioned: Where’s Cash? Waylon? John Denver?
“I don’t know. It didn’t make this…I just shared it.”
Discussion continued, as you would expect.
I listen to dead people and they’re still the best. That’s a pretty powerful statement—both about the music that was made in past years and the music being made now. Is it that the music made “back in the day” was so much better, or that the music today is just that bad?
Here’s a few songs in my playlist that feature dead people..
Space Oddity…David Bowie, Dear Prudence…The Beatles, More Than A Feeling…Boston, Life In The Fast Lane…Eagles, Closing Time…Leonard Cohen, Boys Are Back In Town…Thin Lizzy, Refugee…Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bartender’s Blues…George Jones, Tuesday’s Gone…Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tom Green County Fair…Roger Miller, Foxey Lady…Jimi Hendrix, Acts Of God…Stephen Bruton, All Apologies…Nirvana…
You get the point. And that’s just including bands with singers who have passed. That’s not including bands with legendary musicians: John Entwistle and Keith Moon (The Who), James “The Rev” Sullivan (Avenged Sevenfold), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)…and the list goes on.
I think every generation has its great music—as well as its pile of utter rubbish. And that goes back as far as popular music has been around. I’d guess that going back to when Glenn Miller Orchestra was popular on the radio, there was still someone cursing the announcer for playing a really bad song after it.
For me, in the 70s, we had bands like Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, Rolling Stones, Boston…but we also had artists like Morris Albert (Feelings), Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods (Billy Don’t Be A Hero), Terry Jacks (Seasons In The Sun), Captain and Tenille (Muskrat Love), and who remembers Rick Dees (Disco Duck)?
As I’ve said in earlier blog posts, I like interesting music…and it seems, at least to me, that interesting music—good music was easier to find up to the late 90s. That was back when the programming side of radio was in charge. Radio stations played good music as a sense of pride, and the commercials were there to pay for the good music. In the early 2000’s, things on radio changed. The sales teams kicked programming to the curb. Music became something to fill the space between commercials. And when music becomes something that just fills a void, the music suffers.
I think that’s why we ‘listen to dead people.” Those songs and artists take us back to a time when rock radio really rocked, and country radio really countried (okay, I’m pretty sure that’s not a word, but you get my meaning). A lot of radio today just leaves us wanting something of substance; something that catches our attention like the first time we heard Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, All Of My Love by Led Zeppelin, Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver, or When I’m Gone by Joey + Rory. To quote someone famous, “Here we are now, entertain us.”
There really is a lot of great music out there. Trust me. It’s just harder to find. There really are singers and bands out there that, in 20 or 30 years, people will remember just how good that were—and they too will say, “I listen to dead people…and I like it.”