Thursday, May 03, 2012

Finding the Light through our Tunnel Vision

May2012-onthebike1“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 glimpsesRollersVisitHospital 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.


Deborah Macgillivray said...

How can you miss music that is simply so good? Gene Pitney, The Kinks, The Hollies, the Searchers, on and on?

I grew up learning classical music and love Khachaturian, Saint Saens and Chopin. I picked up early rock following around my uncles, cousins, and older siblings.

Today's commercials were be nowhere without the music of the 50s, 60s, and 70s...

LK Hunsaker said...

Deborah, exactly! Of course not everyone is so into music, but I fear it applies to a much larger field of topics.

(And I meant I had not yet mentioned American Bandstand in my series - missed the not part of that.)

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Every generation has its own music. Music helps define the character of the times. We had The Age of Aquarius by the Fith Dimension and Revolution by the Beatles.
I'm not sure this generation has defined itself yet. Most of them are growing up in a 10 year war and they seem turned off to what's around them. It bothers me that I see people in groups talking on cell phones to some mysterious someone instead of the people they're with. They seem distracted, out of touch and insensitive. I credit the techno world much as you do. More than music, they seem out of touch with history and current events. I feel sorry for them. They seem lost.
I am happy to report that my 10 year old great-niece loves the Beatles and asks to listen to them when we're riding in the car. she likes Cris Botti and Joshua Bell. I love that she is into travel, music old and new and totally into fine arts--but I think she's an exception.
I worry about today's youth. Who do they look up to? What is their purpose? Do they care about what's happening in the world? I don't see them out there protesting the war, environmental issues or child abuse. They seem almost narcissitic.
Great blog. Very provocative.

Kathleen O said...

I have listened to all kinds of music over my lifetime.. And I love all different genres.. I loved and still do, to this day Elvis and Tom Jones my two fav guys.. I love the Beatles, who has not heard of Paul, John, George and Ringo.. What have you beenliving under a rock or something. Then you have The Rolling Stones, Frankie Vali, Gene Pitney, George Stait, Reba. These are just some of them. I love the all of those great crooners, like Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. Tony Bennett, who is still wowing us today with his music..
But I will tell you when I was young and heard singers like Mario Lanza and Deanna Durbin, my love of Opera brought me to The Three Tenors and all of those wonderful singers who followed in their footstep..
Music the Food of Life... Play On..

Unknown said...

I love music...if it's pretty. Some of the artists today really make me cringe.
This conversation could go in many directions,and I enjoyed reading the other comments. I hate to admit it, but I might be the one who would say, "Who is....?"...when the rest of the world would know.
But I understand, and as someone said, every generations has its own culture.
In the late 80s as I taught high school kids, during a Senior class of Physiology students, we were discussing drugs--and they were telling ME all about drugs, as I knew absolutely nothing.
I mentioned "flower children" and not one of my seniors knew the term. I had to explain. This was in the 80s and flower children hadn't been that long ago. Scary.

I retired in 1991--at age 50--and on my big flat desk calendar, on May 30 I'd blocked it out in red and wrote, "Free, free at last. Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last."
My kids were incensed that I would be glad to leave the classroom, but one older girl asked about the quote. Not one student in there had ever heard it.
I asked the girl who read it to see if she could figure out who might have said that. Finally, her answer was, "I bet it was a Black person."
Good post, Loraine--one of your best.