Wednesday, July 26, 2023


Irony isn’t dead. In fact, it’s a living yet intangible part of the odd vibes that abound after the disasters of the worst human assumptions being acted upon. It feels like some smirking ghost at the side of the road laughing at us while we scratch our heads wondering what happened to our best-laid plans. Occasionally, it takes decades for some ironies to become revealed, noticed, observed, as in what, I think, was some of a barely noted reversal of mainstream attitudes about the right and wrong ways of making music. In the early Sixties, around the time of the British Invasion, I remember all sorts of cartoons and jokes about citizens and music fans attempting to commit suicide when they were exposed to the vocal styles of Jagger, Dylan, or a good number of gruff, nasally singers in the pop world. I remember the Rolling Stones’ appearance on the old Hollywood Palace variety show on ABC in 1964.

Hosted by Dean Martin, who was either entirely drunk and on his fourth sheet to the wind or doing a brilliant impersonation of a stumbling sot, The Stones performed their songs for the first time to an American TV audience, an historic event enhanced by Martin’s slurred insults to the British band. There was a trampoline act at mid-show, I remember, a circus act that had a leotard-clad family doing impressive tricks of the bouncing variety. When they were done, Martin came on stage again and announced that the elder man in the troupe was the father of the Rolling Stones and had been trying to kill himself with this trampoline act for years. That was a real gasser. Why the hate? The answer was obvious. The Stones were reintroducing America to a native art, black music, that it had all but forgotten about and found the renditions by the Rolling Stones of classic blues and soul songs alien, offensive, immoral and dangerous. It wasn’t good singing and offensive to the idea of music! It wasn’t even music.

Somewhere along the line all the stoned hippies and rebellious teens grew up, got jobs, had families, and in effect became both their parents and THE MAN, and the same gag now substitutes MOR performers like Dionne Warwick, Michael Bolton, Michael McDonald, and some others for the old guard. These folks can certainly sing but the kind of music they make is antithetical to the true liberating and expressive poetry of what REAL music is. Authenticity as criteria for judgment (an ever-vague and elusive concept) has advanced over technical competence and romantically “pretty” offerings. I have had this debate on both sides over the decades: first with my parents, aunts, uncles, and school teachers defending Dylan’s music and especially his singing; and through the decades arguing with young people that boy bands, pop tunesters like Dionne Warwick and slow jam funk were criminally commercial junk that was without conviction or soul.


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