Monday, March 05, 2007

You treat me badly, I love you madly

I think I had a lucky childhood, musically speaking. I had a great music teacher in primary school. In grade 5/6 choir we sang collections of songs from The Beach Boys, Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan, The Supremes, Elvis, The Beatles, Leslie Gore, Motown, Peter Allen, The Easybeats as well as many contemporary artists. We danced to Broadway songs alongside Madonna songs. We performed in musicals where The Saints stood against Cliff Richard and we learnt to deconstruct simple classical pieces.

I had a thorough introduction to certain types of music which in turn inspired me to look further into new music (or old music, as it may be). We didn't get marks in our music classes - this was the 80s after all, we got a one word comment "good", "excellent" ...whatever. It didn't matter - it changed my life. I learned a lot about music and I learned a lot about myself too. I wonder what I would be like if I hadn't had that introduction? I wonder if I would love music as much as I do. I guess it's hard to say - but I feel a bit sorry for the people that didn't get the music education that I had at school. I went into high school knowing songs that my peers had no idea about. I couldn't believe they hadn't heard about Motown or punk or Cat Stevens. I felt like I had been let in on a secret.

I've spent a lot of time since then wondering about music for future generations. The radio doesn't really play the old stuff anymore and the new stuff - well, let's be honest, sometimes it's just a bit on the scary side. These days kids come to me asking whether I've heard this or that current song - they tell me the name of the song and I realise it's a remake of something I would have listened to when I was a teenager or kid. I remember the original instead. Sure kid, I've heard it - about 15 years ago, you know in the dark ages. I have been bothered by the thought that the originals will be forgotten and being a big fan of old time music I really don't want that to happen. It's not that I reject remakes of songs. I've been worried that all that history behind the original will be swept away under the plastic sounding songs of today. Maybe the kids of today will go into adulthood not realising that the music they listened to as a kid had context and history.

I've been thinking about this for a while and come to the conclusion that perhaps I'm overreacting with this train of thought. I might be a fuddy duddy and not giving the kids of today enough credit. You see, there is a deep dark secret that I hold too:

I was once that kid who listened to remakes and thought they were the originals! Didn't we all?

I fell in love with the remakes but as I grew up, I looked back, discovered the old stories of songs I once thought were new. Fell in love with the classics. Locomotion was not really a Kylie Minogue original! Carl Perkins did Blue Suede Shoes first! Songs have history, who knew?

This, in a roundabout way - takes me to my Musical Monday. Smokey Robinson.

I was introduced to Smokey Robinson through a dubious vehicle. Some of you might remember this one. I certainly do and it is with great glee that I found it again after all these years. I thought it was so funny when I first saw it. I had no idea who Smokey Robinson was back then. I never made the connection until years later. Go have a look for yourself and see if you remember the clip too. I never looked at the letter U in the same way again.

Smokey Robinson on Sesame Street

Then, a while later we sang Tracks of my Tears in our grade 6 school musical. I had no idea who sang it. I didn't care until years further down the track.

Then as a very impressionable tween and like other girls my age I fell under the spell of probably the world's WORST boy band in living history - New Kids on The Block. They did a cover of Oooh Baby, Baby in a live show I happened to catch on TV. Again, loved the song, but didn't care who sang it originally. In fact I had no idea it wasn't an NKOTB song!

Years later, it clicked. I came across songs like I Second that Emotion and Tears of a Clown and thought I had discovered SR&TM. It wasn't until then that I recognised the pattern of Smokey Robinson songs that had been invading my childhood and teen years without me even knowing it! I went back and re-discovered (discovered) the originals. The moment I heard the original of Ooh Baby Baby was a real eye opener for me. All my worlds collided. It took me a few years but I finally got it. Music existed before I did. It had a core, history, soul, context, life and a power beyond which I gave it. That made me feel small - as it should.

The point is. Don't panic! I think, maybe, these kids of today might eventually click on too. Maybe in 20 years they'll look back and discover just how good those classics are. They've just got to. Discovering you're not the center of the universe is part of growing up, after all.

In the meanwhile, while we wait for that big bombshell to drop - here's some of the good stuff. Two of my personal favourites from Smokey Robinson and The Miracles.

You've Really Got a Hold On Me

Oooh Baby, Baby

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