Saturday, July 25, 2015

Music - Yesterday and Today

Ideally, each generation produces its own "great" performers, but I have to seriously ask, who are the so-called "greats" of present day music?  I've been listening, appreciating, performing, writing and recording music for over 50 years.  As a child, I was exposed to the "greats" of the 40s - the big bands and vocalists like Sinatra.  I was heavily influenced by just about all of the music of the 50s.  I began an actual career before the 60s.  Obviously, the 70s gave us a cornucopia of performers - instrumentalists and vocalists.  The 80s produced some gigantic talents.  And then, I began to feel that with the 90s things were starting to get a little thin.  If the 90s were a beer, it would be Miller Lite.

Fast forward to the present day and I'm just not seeing the level of talent - performing or song writing - that I've seen in the past, and this has nothing to do loving the performers of my generation or being stuck in the past.  I've always appreciated a wide variety of music; from big bands, blues, rock, folk, jazz.  I will agree that there are a few people from the last decade I appreciate, even if I don't really enjoy their music as a whole.  Even though I haven't purchased any Dave Mathews albums, I have to admire his level of creativity.  He's trying to create his own sound and I'd have to say he's succeeded at it.

But the question remains, who are the "greats" of the present generation?

I'm also quite aware that marketing plays a big part in the whole picture.  To really be on top of the charts and playing the big venues, you have to have a good agent.  But on the flip side of that, an agent also needs to have someone with actual talent.  Not that you can't sell something that's of poor quality.  Of course you can and it's happened many times in my life.  But ideally, you start with a huge talent and a good agent.  That's a recipe for success.

I'm just not seeing that level of talent or commitment in a lot of present-day performers.  It's said that Chet Atkins would fall asleep in his chair with a guitar in his hands.  That speaks volumes.  By the time Eddie Van Halen hit the big time, I wasn't specifically into their music, but again, I did admire the level of ability and creativity it took to make that happen.  Speaking as an accomplished guitarist, you simply do not fake a Van Halen guitar solo.  Men like Clapton, Santana and Les Paul all created their own individual signature sounds.

One of the things I love about cable TV is that I can watch a variety of live music events (live or recorded).  It's almost as good as being there, and sometimes, even better, in terms of the sound quality and camera angles.  So, when I check out something like Coachella or Bonnaroo, I have to squint, cock my head and go….this….this is talent?  People are paying money to see/hear this??

Even though I wasn't specifically into much of the heavy metal/death metal bands, I had to admire some of the talent; like James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett.  Again, you don't fake that kind of stuff.  Well, you can but the difference is obvious.

One of the more talented, interesting, unique modern-day groups I've seen/heard is Alabama Shakes.  Singer/guitarist Brittany Howard just puts it out there.  This is creative, bold blues.  The difference between Alabama Shakes and most of the groups I saw on the previous-mentioned festivals is like a Thanksgiving dinner and a picture of a Thanksgiving dinner.  One has a mountain of flavors, the other, nothing.

Otherwise, I really don't see/hear anybody following in the footsteps of performers like in the above photo montage.

So, tell me…who are some of the greats of this generation of musicians and performers.  Whom am I overlooking that deserves the credit and recognition of some the aforementioned performers?

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