Crossposted at Daily Kos
The Who — an important band from the 1960’s ‘British Invasion’ — is scheduled to perform during the half-time show at this Sunday’s Super Bowl between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts.
Anyone who is a classic rock and music aficionado has to wonder: what accounts for the popularity of such rock groups formed almost fifty years ago?
Andy Singer, Politicalcartoons.com, Buy this cartoon
A possible answer lies in the connection between rock music and the blues. Given the brilliant lyrics of the early blues songs, the influence that the blues have had over rock music is obvious to anyone interested in the history of music. Blues too have had a revival of a kind in recent years. I probably own over two hundred blues cd’s alone — most of them bought in the past five years or so though my interest in the blues goes back several years. The more I become familiar with them, the greater the urge to listen to older blues from the 1920’s to the 1950’s. Call it the magnetic pull of musical history.
The creatively-written blues songs had a significant offspring as blues great Muddy Waters once sang
All you people, you know the blues got a soul
Well this is a story, a story never been told
Well you know the blues got pregnant
And they named the baby Rock & Roll
At our family reunion over the Thanksgiving Weekend, I was talking to my young nieces and nephews (mostly ages twelve to fifteen years) and was somewhat pleasantly surprised to know that they (and their schoolmates) were listening to, among several rap artists, also to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Santana, Eric Clapton, Eagles, and even the Beatles.
What accounts for the continuing appeal and enduring popularity of these artists? Do they represent an era that many young people today wish they were a part of? One in which materialism and careerism were not all-pervasive and all-consuming. From civil rights to womens rights to anti-war demonstrations, the 1960’s and early 1970’s certainly did represent a turbulent era in our country’s history. And perhaps nothing reflects our society’s condition better at any given moment in time than the songs written in that era.
Jeanne McManus wrote this last year in the Washington Post on the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival
Joel Pett, Lexington Herald-Leader
Was Woodstock a haven for the overindulged, self-important youth of 1969? Some of my friends think so. But I think that, to its credit, pieces of Woodstock’s own crazy world broke off and spun their way into a larger world, especially the one in which I dutifully participated; for about 10 years after Woodstock, its atmospherics were infectious.
Townshend would not be denied a chance at creating his own iconic guitar-destroying moment, however. Hendrix be damned! When off-kilter anti-Vietnam War protester Abbie Hoffman ran onstage during the Who’s Woodstock performance, Townshend got it. Hoffman – who once tried to levitate the Pentagon through mass meditation – commandeered the microphone during “Pinball Wizard” in order to protest the jailing of White Panther leader John Sinclair.
That didn’t sit well with Townshend, who told Hoffman to “f___ off” before smashing him with his guitar, knocking him from the stage. The guitar was destroyed and Townshend had his moment – though that’s little consolation to Hoffman, who probably didn’t appreciate becoming a footnote in rock’s history in such a painfully embarrassing way.
‘The Who’ were not the only British rock band to achieve a high degree of popularity here in this country. As I wrote in my tribute to the Beatles in this diary in 2004 before the 2004 Election
Dave Granlund, Politicalcartoons.com, Buy this caroon
The Beatles — the ‘Fab Four’ group of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr — hit the shores of the United States in 1964 like a sorely-needed breath of fresh air. Over the next few years, their innovative musical sound and brilliant lyrics not only transformed the world of Rock and Roll but gave us much more than just a few memorable tunes. No group before or since has perhaps done more to transform our culture as we know it today. No one reflected the political turbulence, turmoil, anxieties, ambiguities, ambivalence, conflicts, and uncertainties of their era better.
Or contributed more to redefine it.
How about the North American performers like Carlos Santana, Guess Who, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Credence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and countless others? They too made significant contributions to our culture. And then some. So many other British groups are part of our musical memories. From Bad Company to Queen to Led Zeppelin to Pink Floyd to the Moody Blues, these legendary performers have enriched our minds and left a legacy of great lyrics and music.
If any of you saw the excellent PBS series, The Blues you’ll recall Willie Dixon’s observation
The blues are the roots; everything else is the fruits.
How then to compile a short list of some of the best classic rock songs? Should I give preference to the lyrics, the music, choice of instruments, the performer, peer recognition, the social impact of the song, or something else? The criteria are many and all too subjective. Just like compiling any other list — best movies, best actors or actresses, all-time baseball/football/basketball/hockey teams, favorite political philosophers, best politicians, and the like — the debate is endless and the controversies never-ending. But choose we must for, indeed, life is about making choices. More than we’d perhaps like.
Remember, this is just one list. I know there are quite a few music “experts” amongst you. Undoubtedly, your list is different. So, here goes. Choose a song. Then, given the limitations of this poll, elaborate your other choices (listed or not) in the comments section.
Fire away. And, don’t beat me up too badly!
I first posted a version of this diary in 2006