Soundtrack of youth?

First Posted: 8/22/2009

Like many of you, Ive heard the rumble of Harleys, seen hundreds of visitors to Mount Airy for this past weeks Harley Owners Group rally.
Thursday I was strolling down Main Street and I saw a few of the Harley folks walking from their bikes, chatting, and from somewhere in the back of my mind Born To Be Wild started playing inside my head.
Now, I certainly do not mean to generalize or categorize any group of people Harley owners, like any other group, consists of people in their 20s all the way up to folks in their 60s and 70s. They come from all sorts of backgrounds. But a couple of the folks in this little congregation were sure dressed as if they had stepped from 1969 into today, with a few extra years on their bodies.
That got me to thinking about how music can define an age, and for people from that era, can bring back so many memories of the 1960s.
A good number of the folks who were in town last week were, no doubt, of the Born To Be Wild generation, or at least old enough when that movie hit the screens to have been greatly influenced by it in the succeeding years.
Its not so much the movie itself, because the film is simply indicative of the times in which it was made.
I was a little young to see the movie, and quite frankly so young it wouldnt have meant anything to me had I seen it. I do recall the music from that age, and when I hear songs from the 60s and early 70s, I catch glimpses of my childhood, vague recollections of friends and my older sisters and their grown-up friends (at least that was my impression as a little kid).
When I really became aware of music, when it began to be a big enough part of my life to be woven into my memories, was in the middle and later 70s, the disco age and early Michael Jackson.
And 80s music? To me, theres never been any better. Yes, Im prejudiced in that my last high school years were in the 80s, my college years, the early years of my marriage that was the music on the airwaves at the time, the music I associate with that formative period in my life.
What I find funny is how successive generations view older music. When I was growing up, and even in adulthood, I viewed much of the Doo Wop sound as something old folks listened to, and the Born To Be Wild crowd was mostly hippies. I thought, when I was younger, that it was kind of lame.
The 80s? Now that was music, thats what young people listened to, the people who were with it. You want hard driving music, rebellious music? Try out AC/DC, or Metallica, or for more thoughtful lyrics maybe U2. Its no mistake, by the way, that those bands are still around today quality will keep a group rolling for generations.
Fast forward to today, and I have kids of my own. Teenagers.
Every once in a while Ill play a bit of AC/DC or Metallica, and you know what my kids say.
Not that lame music.
Lame? How did my music go from being hip, with-it, hot, and whatever other adjective you want to use, to lame? Boring, even.
I suppose, in the long run, its not really about the quality of the musicians, or even the particular message of the lyrics. Its really more about the sound of an age and whatever you grow up with, what music you listen to as you emerge into adulthood, is what you recall as the best music.
So, if you see any of the HOG members still around town today, and you happen to hear a little Steppenwolf or the Ballad of Easy Rider, simply smile and know that, for some of them, that may represent the best of music ever made.

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