Diversity is a word we are all familiar with today. And that isn’t a bad thing. If we hear the word “diversity” it is usually in reference to skin color. Diversity is defined as: the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.
I like diversity. My personality doesn’t do well when everything looks, tastes, smells…the same. I like to try and experience new and different things. This is never more obvious than when it comes to music. Good grief I am all over the map when it comes to music I like to listen to. My likes span from Tom T. Hall, to James Taylor, to Fleetwood Mac, to Beethoven, to the Charlie Brown Christmas music. I am not alone, I think most of us if we are honest would admit to having a wide taste in musical preference. When the IPod first came out I recall all the buzz around “What do you have on your IPod”. It was a socially big issue. Our personal tastes in music will also show how independent you really are. Are you the type of person that likes certain music because everyone else does? Are you worried about people finding out what you REALLY enjoy listening too? Can you take the flak when people joke at you for listening to Disney soundtracks? Or better yet, are you the type of person that makes fun of others for their taste? It’s no secret that music has a way of revealing what is really going on inside. Maybe the teenager listening to harmful/violent music is actually crying out from the inside words that he or she cannot say out loud
I don’t get a lot of physical features from my dad. Physically we don’t look alike, at all, except for our receding hairlines. His seems to be racing towards the back of his head quicker than mine! But one thing we have in common is a true diversity in music. I have to tip the hat to my father for encouraging me to listen to a wide range of music. I experienced his diversity most when fishing. From our home to the fishing spot would allow for 90 minutes or more of music. In that time I would hear Marty Robbins, The Platters, Glen Campbell, Elvis, Elton John and Floyd Cramer. And the same diversity on the way home. I grew up in the 80s, and though it was post-Civil Rights era, there was still issues with race in America. My classroom was ~50/50 and we were first generation post-Civil Rights era. Listening to this wide array of music (which included a lot of black artists) helped me to have a common platform to speak on. I could relate to some of my black classmates because I was listening to much of the same music they were listening to at home. Jackie Wilson, Al Wilson, Jerry Butler, Lloyd Price, Fats Domino and the velvety voice of Sam Cooke.
I have never been a fan of saying “Oh that is white people music” or “That is the kind of stuff black people listen too”. Nonsense. A good song is a good song. I will never forget in 1995 when a black coworker of mine looked at me and said “You know, that Garth Brooks guy sings some good stuff!” Yes, yes he did
What freedom it is to say “There is something about this song. This melody. This instrumental arrangement. This story. This harmony…that reaches inside me and touches something. It has a way of making me feel – at home
But the “gotcha” moment came in 1984. Rap was starting to move into mainstream. It was advancing from something kids did in inner-city New York City to radio, and ultimately into your car and home. Well, 50% of my class was black and this was the audience rap was first reaching. So I began to hear more of this “rap stuff” at school. And of course they would mention certain radio stations which I would sneak and listen too. There was one group of 3 young black guys that caught not only my ear but the ears of the other boys in my class – The Fat Boys! This was the early days of rap so looking back on the music it seems so elementary is sound, rhyming patterns and content, but in 1984 this was a BIG DEAL! To a young 10 year old this was the greatest invention to music since the phonogram! Of course many “older folk” dismissed it as foolish and a mere fad that would disappear soon. Well…..
My mom (bless her 4’10” soul) would peacefully listen to my music in the car (always on a bootleg cassette). She would painfully endure raps about being tough, Adidas sneakers, skipping school…and wouldn’t say a thing. No wonder today that she doesn’t listen to the radio much. HOWEVER….my dad was different. I remember bringing the above album home one Saturday to playing it in my room (there used to be these places called record stores where you went and bought music but they have been gone since the era of the dinosaur). He came into my room with a classic “What the hell is that?!?!?” “Well dad it is the Fat Boys and it is called rap.” “Rap? It will never last…”
Oddly enough, I don’t listen to FM radio much anymore. I am often worried where music can lead my mind. Almost like it is on a leash. And if I am honest, my mind doesn’t always travel to a good place when I listen to the radio.
With so many devices out there to play music I know my kids will develop a particular taste earlier than I did. Of course music today is different. Sex, violence and pure evil are spread across the musical landscape. All one click away. Like my dad I play a wide array of music for them. I try to give them an example to be yourself when it comes to what your ears like to hear. Don’t let others dictate what you should like to listen too (unless the underlying meaning of the song is corrupt).
And someday in the not so distant future I will hear something coming out of their rooms and I will gracefully walk in and ask “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?”