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Of Time and the Rocker

The seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day (my dad was at Omaha Beach) and the deaths of Leon Redbone and Dr. John got me thinking about the passage of time. A measure of how far down the road we are is this: D-Day occurred in 1944. The Beatles were formed, transformed everything and were done 26 years later, in 1970. Almost twice as much time (1970 to 2019) has elapsed since the breakup.

What does that have to do with Cage the Elephant’s song “Ready to Let Go,” which is above? Nothing directly. But it’s interesting to think that there has not been a generational shift in popular music anywhere near as total as during the far shorter period between World War II and 1970: Everything changed musically between 1944 and 1970, while there has been no foundational shift between 1970 and now.

cage_the_elephant
Cage the Elephant (Photo: Thornton Drury

Listen to “Ready to Let Go.” A slightly toned down version (and, of course, without the creepy video) would fit in just fine in 1970. Indeed, there is a lot of current music that would do so as well. That is a lot different than a comparison of World War II-era music and what kids were listening to during the 1970s. Young folks simply didn’t listen to big band jazz. It’s made a comeback of sorts since – happily, it’s wonderful music – but jazz has more or less moved on.

The world went from Guy Lombardo and Harry James to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Sly and the Family Stone and all the others in about quarter century. In the half century since, music that younger people listen to has been incrementally added to (hip hop, funk, reggae, modern country, etc.), but nothing has been left behind. Rock still is very much the rock folks my age few up with. In an alternate universe, The White Album would fit right in it was released today, and music from Low Cut Connie or Cage the Elephant would not have been wildly out of place in 60 years ago.

Another way to look at it: Billboard’s list the top 25 grossing tours of 2018 includes nine acts of 1980 or earlier vintage: U2, The Rolling Stones, Journey/Def Leppard (touring together), Depeche Mode, Billy Joel, Dead and Company (sort of) and Elton John.

It’s impossible to say anything definitive, since the tours are of different length, play different size venues and so forth. The point, however, is broader: A lot of really “classic rock” acts draw big crowds and a lot of kids play music closely related to the old stuff. Part of it is that the baby boomers like the old stuff and have a lot of money to spend on entertainment, of course. At the same time, it’s far more likely to see a kid today wearing a Who, Jimi Hendrix or Pink Floyd tee-shirt than a teen in 1970 wearing a Duke Ellington or Count Basie  tee-shirt (assuming they even existed).

I guess the moral of the story is that time flies when you are listening to good music.

The Daily Music Break covered Cage the Elephant earlier. The band was formed in 2006. “Ready to Let Go” was released in January of this year (we take a liberal view of what constitutes “new” music). It was the first single from “Social Cues,” the band’s fifth and most recent studio album. It’s at above left and here from Amazon and here from iTunes.

Cage the Elephant is in the midst of a long tour, much of it co-headlining with Beck, who co-wrote one of the songs on “Social Cues.” The band’s fourth album, “Tell Me I’m Pretty,” released in December 2015, won the Best Rock Album award at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.

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Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.