While I was helping my dad hang light fixtures in our new house years ago, he let me play music while we worked. When we had listened to about half of the Black Keys song I put on, he turned to me very solemnly and said, “Son, turn this off.”
This is the most common reaction that people who idolize classic rock have when they hear modern rock music. My dad belongs to an entire generation that turned to the classic rock station after being frightened by the rage of 90’s grunge rock and the general depravity of hip-hop. Now, these rock purists cannot listen to anything made after Use Your Illusion II.
When I was young, my dad constantly played and talked about songs from his childhood. I quickly became able to identify songs written 40 years before I was born and name albums that were released before the cassette era. For a while, all was good.
It could not last.
When I entered high school, my taste in music became more influenced by friends than my family. I left the world of Zeppelin, Hagar, and Queen to enter the world of Hozier, Kaleo, and Gary Clark Jr.
I naturally introduced my father to some of this new music. He summarily rejected anything that wasn’t classic and created a division between music that was his and music that was mine. I never divided music based on when it was created. Music streaming allowed me to create playlists that seamlessly blended the old with the new. My dad primarily listened to music he had purchased, and that allowed him to avoid new rock like the plague.
My story is hardly unique. In every small town and suburb across this great land there are middle-aged dads who listen to their classic rock stations and pretend no good music has been produced in the last three decades.
The classic rock stations employ a variety of conniving methods in order to keep their listeners from exploring any modern rock. The most shocking is the shameless attempt to make listeners feel nostalgic on a daily basis.
Sirius XM’s 80s on 8 is an 80s hits station. It is hosted by original MTV VJs who discuss artists that haven’t made new music in a generation and give away tickets to bands whose members were eligible for AARP membership 10 years ago. Listening to his childhood celebrities on the radio excites my dad enough for him to mention that he remembers the original VJs every time we get in the car. 80s on 8 and other stations strive to make it seem like 1980 was just last week, and not 38 years ago. By glorifying “the classics” and disparaging the modern, these stations are conditioning listeners to reject anything that isn’t old and famous.
Good music is good music — it doesn’t matter when it was made.
Our generation would be doing a disservice to the older one if we didn’t at least try to expose them to the some of the highlights of a new age in rock. Music should not be relegated to second class status because of its age.
I have found that music streaming services are the most effective tool in bringing new music to old people. Since my dad began streaming his music, he has been much more open to experimenting with new artists. Why shouldn’t he be? A month of Spotify premium costs less than a meal at El Cerritos, and it costs the same amount to listen to 1 artist all the time or 1,000 different ones. With the exception of a 3 month period where he only listened to Ariana Grande, the music he listens to now comes from a greater variety of artists, and he is genuinely excited when he discovers new ones. We can talk about music without contention again.
I was privileged to get to bond with my dad over rock music twice. Once when I opened his ears, and once when he opened mine. I will remember those moments forever.
Even if the task seems daunting, trying to bring rock to the older generation is worthwhile. They gave that precious gift to us. We should pass that gift back to them.
Sutton Dunwoodie is a sophomore studying political economy.