“Who’s Paul McCartney?”
Yes, this was a real question that was passed around Twitter during and after one of the recent award shows. I literally gaped. Who’s Paul McCartney? Are they kidding?
Even more recently I saw a conversation where a dance teacher wanted to do an American Bandstand theme for their next show, in honor of Dick Clark, I would guess. Very cool idea, I thought. Eh-hem. Most of the students had no idea what American Bandstand is/was. *sigh*
Okay, so it ended in 1989. Still, some things never truly end. They are part of our ingrained cultural heritage, like Elvis. There are things kids should just know … just because they should know them.
In talking with (complaining to) my family about this, they made valid points as to how long ago it was and that even if they didn’t recognize Paul McCartney, they would know who the Beatles are. Let’s hope that’s true. Granted. I get it. Time passes. New musicians come out at a rate of about an idol and a bunch of wannabe idols a year. TV is all fake reality now instead of the more simple music and entertainment shows of the past. I get it.
Still, I look back at when I was a teen and remember how hard I tried to find information on my favorite bands. It wasn’t easy when you were in the middle of a flyover state in the middle of cornfields. We were terribly grateful for Teen Magazine and Tiger Beat that would give us glimpses and info (as “factual” as they may have been) of our teen idols. Now and then The Weekender that came in the Sunday paper had a nice black and white photo of Donny Osmond or Erik Estrada or The Bay City Rollers visiting a children’s hospital (yep, I still have that tiny little b/w article). But it was no easy task for some of us to learn about music. One of the best resources was American Bandstand, originated and hosted by Dick Clark. Everyday American kids could go dance to the most current music on the show and in between, we’d get the top ten lists of the week, plus, and this was the big pull, each show featured a live performance by one of the top bands!
I know, I can hear young people today say, “So what? We get that through Youtube and VH1 and artist websites and iPods and… wherever else any time we want it.” Yeah, yeah, I get it. But back then, we had American Bandstand and Midnight Special (if our parents let us stay up that late, which was a long shot in most cases) and a couple of other variety shows, once a week at best. Before the late 70s we didn’t even have VCRs in case we weren’t home to see it. We managed, though. We found out info and shared it with each other. We had pen pals to compare notes. We developed deep friendships simply based on sharing info about a favorite band. (And in doing so, we learned valuable communication skills!)
Why is it, then, that in this day and age of the internet and the very simple way of finding oh, so much more than you really want (or need) to know about your fave celebs (and then some), that kids seem to know less about older celebs than we did about older celebs?
In the late 70s, we all knew the names Marty Robbins, Frank Sinatra, Dale Evans, Roy Rogers, and so on, even though they were “far” before our time. We knew Peter, Paul, and Mary. We knew Jimi Hendrix. Even if it wasn’t our style or interest, we knew their names.
So yes, it still stymies me as to how on earth any teen these days wouldn’t know the name Paul McCartney or what American Bandstand is! Youtube it, for Pete’s Sake!
My guess is (and I come up with this with the help of the family discussion) that just like we now have a whole long shelf full of cereal from which to choose instead of a few varieties where the best toys got the buy, kids are under a huge onslaught of info. It’s so much and so easy to get to and so everywhere on every device under the sun that they have to tune it out and beeline for what they want specifically. They develop tunnel vision to prevent overload.
But at the same time, they miss so much that we leeched right onto because we could actually find it, at times, if we tried. We stayed thirsty for knowledge because we had to make an effort to find it. No effort involved these days. Stick it in Google and within seconds, there it is. What’s the joy in that? What’s the challenge? Without challenge, how valued is the info?
So, a challenge: Dig a hole up from the tunnel’s easy to find light at the end and shovel into the dark. Put the toys (electronics) away for a day and find info about something that pulls your interest.
A hint… listen to your elders. We learned an incredible amount because we didn’t have much else to do but to listen when our elders conversed about things we didn’t know yet.
When they mention such gems as … well, Paul McCartney (he was the bassist for the Beatles, by the way), don’t go to Twitter and ask who it is. Look it up! If you’re really up for a challenge, try doing that in a library instead of on the internet. It’s good for your brain. Honestly.
Or… just YouTube it:
The Jacksons on American Bandstand
So… this whole conversation made me acutely aware that I’d yet mentioned American Bandstand in my Rehearsal series. That will be promptly corrected!
Rest in Peace, Dick Clark.