I grew up on a steady diet of Fleetwood Mac, Sting (to a lesser extent The Police), Phil Collins, James Taylor, Steve Winwood, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. These were acts that were incredibly popular during my parent’s respective stints in college, and it’s only natural to assume that their favorite artists would get heavy airplay once they had kids of their own to haul back and forth from school and to extracurricular activities. The first concert I ever attended was one put on by James Taylor in East Lansing, Michigan, and looking back on it now, I have a slight suspicion that my parents might have been under the influence of the devil’s lettuce. I don’t know, though, I could be wrong – I was only twelve at the time.
It’s probably hard for all of you to believe, but I can still remember the first time I heard Earth, Wind, and Fire’s smash hit “September.” I was seven years old, and my mom was giving me a ride to the opening of Star Wars: Episode 1 at a theater nearby our house. I had my friends in the backseat with me, and at the time I was embarrassed beyond belief. My mom was in the front seat belting out every word while me and my two friends in back just looked at each other confused. Until you start drinking or doing illicit drugs, “September” isn’t really a song that I would expect a lot of young kids to really like or understand at all. And I simply didn’t get it yet.
I finally came around to my parents’ excellent taste in music during high school when I discovered boxes and boxes full of “Greatest Hits” CD’s from the early and mid-90s. Everything you can think of was in those boxes, and I fancied myself a little bit of music connoisseur by the time I got to college. I knew what songs kids my age would vaguely recognize and I would play them at pregames to the delight of all. Like it or not, the music that your parents listened to when you still had a malleable brain affected what kind of music you listen to now.
My question is this: what happens when we’re all 40 years old with kids of our own? Are we going to be playing “Act A Fool” by Ludacris as we drive our eight-year-olds to school at 7:30 a.m. on a Monday? That song is fantastic, but lyrics like this? “Man, that ain’t sticky, that’s just sticks and stems/Boy whatcha gon’ do? Act a fool/Catch ya man with another bitch up in ya bed/ Ladies whatcha gon’ do? Act a fool.” That’s a song that a young, not-yet-ruined-by-the-realities-of-the-real-world child needs to hear.
Am I going to be picking up my daughter and two of her friends from soccer practice while “Me OK” by Young Jeezy pulses through the stereo of my Subaru Outback? (sidenote: I’m assuming I drive a Subaru in this scenario because my wife forced me to get it, further dragging the point out that she’s the breadwinner and I’m just a stay-at-home dad.) I don’t know. I really don’t. I feel like I’m going to have to listen exclusively to stuff that doesn’t have a lot of swearing or innuendo in it. I can’t imagine having a girlfriend right now much less having a human child to care for, but I just cannot, for the life of me, figure out if I’m still going to be bumping “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” when I’m changing diapers.
Our parents’ generation had it a lot easier than we will on the “music which will be acceptable for a young child’s ears” front. Explicit music was extremely hard to come by when our parents’ generation was crushing Schlitz beer and smoking horribly average weed in college. They listened to Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Iggy Pop, and fucking Steely Dan. I went to parties and listened to songs like “Every Girl” by Lil Wayne or “No Hands” by Wacka Flocka. Both great songs in their own right, but probably not okay to be listening to when you’re taking your small son and four of his buddies to play laser tag. The differences are night and day. I obviously never played songs like that when I was allowed to DJ a party, but the point still stands. We’re influenced heavily by the music that we listened to and were exposed to during college. It sticks with you because college memories tend to do that.
I’m thinking about the pick-up car lane at the elementary schools we’ll all inevitably drive to in ten, fifteen, or twenty years. Let’s just say I won’t be horribly disappointed if every single Subaru Outback and hybrid mini-van/SUV is playing their favorite track from “The Life of Pablo” while we wait for little Jimmy and Suzy to come running out of school. .
Image via ‘This Is 40’