Posted on November 23, 2018
by Steve Janowick
“…I’m as free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change.” Written by a 23-year old red-neck from the swamps of Jacksonville, Florida.
“…There’s a lady who’s sure, all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying a Stairway to Heaven.” Written by a 22-year old rambler from the smoke stacks of Birmingham, England.
“…It hurts to set you free, but you’ll never follow me, the end of laughter and soft lies, the end of nights we tried to die, this is the end.” Penned by a 23-year old dropout drifting through the beaches and deserts of southern California.
“…With the lights out, it’s less dangerous, here we are now, entertain us.” Recorded by a 23-year old misfit from the desolate, gutted-out town of Aberdeen, Washington.
Want me to keep going?
I could easily fill ten thousand pages up with masterful, heartfelt, gut-wrenching, poignant poetry from past rock lyricists. Born from Bob Dylan’s 1963 release of Blowin’ in the Wind, rock and roll suddenly became the musical canvas for the young song writer to express himself. Whether he was shining a spotlight on an injustice, reflecting on the changing times, or giving us a glimpse into his tortured soul, truth was now center stage in the rock singer’s song. The hollowed-out, mindless lyric that inhabited most pop songs still had its place, and still sold zillions of records, but the executive (the money man) who pulled the strings, and who had his finger high in the air to see which way the winds were blowing, knew the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement were causing huge tectonic shifts in cultural and societal attitudes. So, he did what any savvy business man would do-he milked the hell out of it.
And, thankfully for us, he did.
For the next thirty years, rock music experienced its artistic zenith. Now, every confused teenager trying to find his way or understand the meaning of life could do so through the lyrics of his favorite songs. How many dudes back in the day sat in their rooms getting lost in the words on the album sleeve while listening to the record? I know I did! Rock artists were now serious and critical. They weren’t just entertaining us anymore. They were making us think and feel with profound statements and interpretations. Likened to the great novelists and poets of the day, the rock lyricist was now studied and analyzed in academic circles as well.
But right around the time that Kurt Cobain, and the genre he helped create, died, so too did the serious rock song-at least within mainstream consciousness. The poetic lyric was now non-existent on rock records by new emerging artists. The powers that be in the ether went right to the source and killed the creators. Like a festering biological plague that slowly spreads and eventually mutates an entire species, the music industry mutated the young rock singer into a one-dimensional, soulless caricature with nothing to say.
Of course, we all know the reasons why. It’s no great secret that ever-advancing technologies have completely changed everything in our daily lives-including the way we think about, purchase and consume music. But I’m not concerned about the why. That’s a whole other post for a whole other time. What I am concerned about is an entire generation of kids not getting to experience the poetry in rock music like past generations of kids did.
But, in an ironic twist, the hand that taketh away-also giveth. Technology allows us to search like never before. And that’s what it takes-seeking out. Because there are still some great, young rock artists telling some great stories through their poetic lyrics. Waiting for some young fan to solve the world’s problems or figure himself out through them.
He just has to find them.
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