As an artist I have a built in level of tolerance for artistic expression that others might find offensive. Even that layer of understanding, however, has limits. Before Christmas It put together a playlist of Christmas songs I had on the computer. I had the classics but also favorites like Bruce Springsteen playing “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” and “Merry Christmas Baby.’ I can’t get enough Clarence Clemens on the sax. There was U2 and Bon Jovi playing “Please Come Home for Christmas.” The list goes on. As I was listening in bliss a rap song came on. I have nothing against rap as an art form until it gets nasty. This song went there fast. It was by a group my daughter and son like called “Hollywood Undead.” Being an artist I tried to have an open mind and listened to the whole song before passing judgement. When it was done I was sickened. Then I stopped and thought about a conversation my father had with me as a young boy. I was heavily into progressive rock. On this particular day I was listening to Genesis and imagining myself behind the drums playing like Phil Collins. Then my father came in and told what I was listening to was not real music. It was garbage. He took me downstairs and made me watch Looney Toons cartoons. He explained the background music was real music. Then he played the 1812 Overture and used it as another example. I actually liked that piece and respected orchestra music but felt in no way did it make my music garbage. As I aged and went to college I admit I listened to less cerebral music like Guns N Roses, AC/DC and all sorts of alternative rock (which would now be mainstream.) When I came home freshman year and played “Eruption” by Van Halen I thought my father was going to blow a circuit; and there weren’t even words in the song. As I sat in my room I remembered my mother telling me about her parents’ reaction to Elvis and the Beatles. They were so tame compared to what I listened to. Music continues to push the boundaries of what they can get away with. On Christmas I mentioned to my daughter that her song ended up on my playlist. She begged me not to play it for her mother. Then I looked at my granddaughter opening a present and said, “I wonder what the music will be like that she enjoys and you find offensive one day?” I can’t imagine how crude it will be but I think I will be one of those people listening to the Oldies station by then.
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