One of the many sociological things I ponder is music and society. I grew up in a house that always had music going in it. Yes, we had a TV but mom did her housework with the radio going and listened at night.
When I was a child my mom often listened to Wolfman Jack at night and it was so much fun to sing and dance with the music. But mom’s music tastes were very eclectic and I learned from her to enjoy music – all types of music.
Many people boast smell as being their strongest sense to ‘put them back into a place’ but to me, music does it. I can hear a song and usually tell you how old I was when it was out, or when I first remember hearing it. It brings recall of events and people, places and emotions. It touches my heart because of these recalls and I cherish them.
I can remember that my first slow dance was in 7th grade, at TARP with Mark R. and we danced to ‘Something’ by the Beatles. Not so much dancing actually, sort of holding onto one another and swaying a bit. I felt perfect, so happy. I think he was just happy feeling my breasts pressed up against him, but that is a different story!
But hearing that song puts me right back there, to a darkened gymnasium, arms around his neck, feeling both of our heartbeats skip along. Of the first stirrings of something I didn’t yet understand.
And music made it all acceptable. If I were to get that close to a boy in other situations, someone (an adult) would have pulled us apart, told us that wasn’t ‘acceptable behavior’. But because we were dancing, it was all cool – go ahead, get as close as possible, rub adolescent body parts up against each other. It’s dancing, socially acceptable; in fact it was and still is a socially favored behavior.
We teach our babies to listen to lullabies in attempts to quiet them at night, we teach our children the joys of playing an instrument or singing as an outlet for certain desires, needs or behaviors. Music fills our hearts, our heads and our souls; tames the savage and not so savage beasts.
The alphabet song teaches us our ABC’s, other songs teach us about our history as human beings, such as ‘The Erie Canal’. They give us a brief peek at what a society was, how the people thought, how they interacted with one another. Yet we often fail to acknowledge their significance.
And songs themselves change and evolve through the years as well, new versions, new singers. Take one of my favorite songs: ‘Since I Fell For You’. It was done in 1962 by Lenny Welsh (if it was done earlier I am not aware of that version). That song speaks of love in a relatively innocent way. Not the words so much – it was after all a song about a relationship breaking up, but the tone, the way it is sang. When I listen to it I see a couple perhaps necking in the backseat of a car, stolen kisses and a few illicit caresses. A song for the times, because that was a lot of what 1962 was about.
Another version came out in the ‘80’s by jazz artist David Sanborn with lyrics by Al Jareau. Same song, same tune, but a little edgier, hipper. It’s no longer quite so innocent; its melody sort of invades your body, urging you to move with it.
And finally, Michael Bolton’s version in the early ‘90’s. Again, same song and melody but this one takes on a whole new feeling. Its way past edgy, it doesn’t just invade your body it permeates it, and you know exactly what it is urging you to do – run out and find that certain someone and have your way with them - NOW!
So here is the question I put to you all: Has music changed because of society, or has society changed because of music?