A New York Rant

Music Is The Great Uniter

By Sean-Patrick M. Hillman

Some of my fondest childhood memories are singing along with my mother in the car to classics like “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry, “Blue Suede Shoes” by Elvis Presley, “Cupid” by Sam Cooke, and many, many more. With my father, music was more centered around the ’60s and ’70s hitmakers like Chicago, Cream, Hendrix, Joplin, Dylan, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. 

My obsession only furthered my fascination with music for Michael Jackson, Madonna, and the one-hit wonders of the Decade of Decadence. In other words, my parents made sure I had an incredibly diverse upbringing concerning music genres and types. It didn’t matter if it was a Beethoven symphony, a tune from the Swing era, or the earliest Rap hits. My parents made sure I understood music’s importance from a historical and pop culture perspective. It wasn’t about entertainment. It was about history and the “time capsule” effect that certain songs provide.

Think about Don McLean’s “American Pie” whose overall thematic centered on the loss of innocence of the early Rock ‘n Roll generation (“the day the music died” refers to the tragic 1959 plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper). For a more contemporary example, think about the outrage by Democrats that President George W. Bush was making war in Iraq at the beginning of this century, which led to Green Day’s “American Idiot.” And a lot of my fellow “Why Bother”-generation (GenX) was raised the same way.

However, in my experience, most Millennials and GenZ members have a limited understanding of Rock ‘n Roll history, let alone popular music, at least other than what they learn by watching older acts promoting their latest releases on American Idol or America’s Got Talent.

So, my issue and consequent rant, is why did younger Baby Boomer and older GenX parents fail so miserably in raising their Millennial and GenZ children with an understanding and appreciation of music? The 21st century might have been vastly different for our city, let alone our country, if they had.

As an example, there is one thing that I think we can all agree on; music is the great uniter. Think about it. From festivals to concerts to even listening parties, music is the rarest of the rare in terms of bringing people together. And while the music festival business has exploded in the last 20 years, that had nothing to do with bringing people together but rather everything to do with corporate and music industry greed. At least with 1985’s We Are The World, Farm Aid, and Live Aid, it was more about helping to stop famine and bring about awareness of those nations, and populations, that were suffering from starvation (what the PC crowd ridiculously refers to as “food insecurity” in developed nations). Yes, this generation has operations like the Global Citizens Festival, which on its face seems altruistic (I will not dive into the politics behind this one right now). But that is one example amongst a plethora of corporate-driven festivals that only seek one thing—profitability.

Remember, music and music history help children perform better in mathematics, the sciences, and composition. Why on God’s green earth do we fail to provide our children with experiences in such an essential aspect of life? Music is a unique historical glance at the period those songs were written. To ignore music is to divide people and shun the lessons history has tried to teach us. That may explain why we are in the mess we are.

Here’s to hoping that the next generation will have a better appreciation of such an important part of our lives—and the past.