Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Lost Boys

One of my favorite bloggers, Natalie, had a great post today about music skipping a generation.

She observed that her student workers knew little to nothing about music from eras the she loves, the late sixties/early seventies, which she (and I) believes was a high point in music. The era was full of brilliant, diverse music that had a wide audience that crossed cultures and ethnicities. I guess I assumed that since my 69-year-old father and my 46-year-old self both love Santana, Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Motown, etc. that everybody does.

When my youngest brother got married in 1995, he called me to ask me if I knew any deejays. At one time in my life I did know a lot of them; I hung around in clubs and had a lot of friends who were deejays. By 1995, though, I was hip deep in parenthood. I did little club-hanging. I was unable to help him. No problem, he told me a couple of weeks later; his soon-to-be mother-in-law had hired a couple of young relatives to deejay the reception.

The wedding was lovely; my brother's wife is Indian-American (she was born in India, but raised mostly here). The ceremony was Christian (they'd met in a religious group), but they honored his wife's family's Hindu heritage as well.

The reception was held at banquet facility run by a popular Chicago Indian restaurant. The food was great. The photographer was great. The deejays.... well....

The "Indian Hip Hop Boys," as I was later to refer to them, were told to play lots of Motown, a favorite of my new sister-in-law. My brother asked me to take care of steering them toward the right music. I went over to them to help them plan out the playlist. I gave them a simple instruction: "Play lots of Motown." I recieved a couple of puzzled looks and a question: "What's Motown?"

At first I thought it was a joke. Most professional deejays I've ever known had a wide and deep music collection; they might have to deejay a bar mitzvah, a retirement party, a graduation party-- or a wedding reception for people in their thirties, as they were doing.

I told them "You know-- Detroit-- Barry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas."

"Oh, you mean like rap?"

"Um, no."

I sensed a potential disaster, so I told them I wanted to go through their collection and pick out what they should play. I was shocked, as I went through the collection, at the lack of depth of the collection. It was mostly hip-hop. It was totally inappropriate for the reception.

After considerable digging, I came up with, I'm not kidding, about a half dozen songs that could even loosely fit the criterion, including a Marvin Gaye tune and a Supremes song that was on a movie soundtrack. I told them to play these songs and not one other song in their collection. I knew it would be a little strange to hear the same few songs over and over again, but it would be better than having a mostly over-50 crowd subjected to a soundtrack that would be more appropriate to a college party.

Several times during the night they veered from the playlist and I had to go over and remind them of what I'd told them. After several occurences of this, I considered threatening them with violence (okay, I'd had a few drinks), but chose to use a bigger trump card; I told them that if they continued with the music that wasn't appropriate to the occasion that they weren't going to get paid. That worked wonders.

After the reception, I was amazed that these guys actually thought that they might make a living doing this. I guess as long as there are enough high schoolers and college kids needing a party deejay, they would do all right. But what really struck me was how sad it was that they were missing a huge treasure trove of some of the greatest music ever.


dmarks said...

I grow to slowly like Motown more and more, but the rest of those you name I think are mainly "OK", and not really found in my Mp3 collection.

Oh well

'Bubbles' said...

After Christmas I inherited a couple of "obsolete" Ipods from the kids. I hadn't had one of my own yet. I promptly moved the few CD's I took during the divorce to the computer, bought a number of tunes, and confirmed what I thought - my taste in music spans many decades! I guess because my brother is 14 years older, my sister 7 years older... I learned to love their music first. My tunes range from the 60's, maybe even late 50's to current... uh, with a concentration from the late 70's to the 90's.

Thing 1 is really in to Rap and HipHop, Thing 2 is more of a Rocker... hard to tell with Thing 3.

Howeva - Thing 1 has a number of my tunes on her Ipod, I noticed. Some Sheryl Crow, Marvin Gaye. Yep, I'll keep trying to influence!!

'Bubbles' said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monica said...

how do you just not know? i can see not liking but not KNOWING??? and intending to make a living in dj-ing??? wow

SamuraiFrog said...

I share Monica's amazement. I don't think I've ever been to a wedding reception that didn't pull out at least three Motown songs as a rule. And how do you not know? That's a sure way to show you just don't know anything about music. "What's Going On" is one of the most important albums of the seventies, and you're missing out on Stevie Wonder's amazing 1971-1976 period. It just... boggles the mind.

Erik Donald France said...

Yeah, this is still true at many school events, including sporting events. Absolute crapola vs. the good stuff. Like trying to serve rotgut over the finest booze. Dj Schmmeejay -- glad you more or less took over and showed 'em a reality check :->

p.s. I rarely go to Blockbuster but had to pick up a movie for a friend -- the manager knew NOTHING about movies more than a year old. I pitied the poor fool.

SkylersDad said...

I think it's due to the declining attention span of the kids of today. Really, I'm not trying to sound like an oldster here, but there is this ADD-like attitude that is prevalent among the kids today.

cheer34 said...

My kids enjoy all eras of music. Thankfully. They have made me aware of some of the music from today. And I enjoy some of the music.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

We all assume everyone knows and loves the same music we do. Personally I'm glad other bloggers and people on the web have turned me onto some many groups I never heard of and music that I would have never heard if they had not put it on their blogs or wrote about it. But really, those "deejays" should have know that older folks would not have been into hip hop at a wedding reception.

claire said...

speaking as a dj - they should have been shot there and then.

Natalie said...

My jaw is on the floor. When I eventually get married I think I am creating the entire playlist. Screw requests, it's my wedding.

vikkitikkitavi said...

I think the secret to staying young is to never stop listening to music. I have several friends who don't listen to anything new anymore.

It's sad - they just keep buying new compliations of the same old artists.

GETkristiLOVE said...

What? No Rick Springfield?

Just kidding. I know what you mean - there's a couple young gals I play hockey with and every now and then, they make comments about the locker room music (whether it's mine or someone else's). Nothing is cool if it's old (like Beatles, Supremes, Gaye) unless it's from the 80s. Then it's cool to them because they make fun of it.

I keep telling them that their kids will laugh at Ludicrous and Britney, but you know, it doesn't sink in.

BeckEye said...

It bothers me that the younger generation doesn't seem to care about learning about music that was before their time. Like these contestants on Idol, or famously Avril Lavigne who didn't know who David Bowie was. If you're a musician (or even an entertainer, at best) you should want to know about all types of music, from all time periods.

Maybe I was just lucky that I had siblings all much older than me and they all liked different genres of music.