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Sweet Tooth


Having brunch at a local restaurant recently, I took notice of the music being piped-in through the discreetly positioned speakers while we dined. The songs were predominantly from the 1950s and '60s. Oldies, if you will. There's nothing wrong with that, per se, though it reinforced an opinion I have about modern society, that we are, for better or worse, wrapped-up in nostalgia.

"If we were sitting in a restaurant in the 1960s, do you think they would have been playing music from 1910?" I asked my brunch companion. Ashley responded that it would have been less likely, though he countered with the fact that the curation of things (not just music) in recent decades has led to easy access to older material. It simply wouldn't have been as easy during the 1960s to have access to a recording from 1910.

Perhaps accessibility is the driving force behind the lingering presence of what is, frankly, old culture? If so, is that a good, bad, or neutral set of circumstances? Does it make us cling too heavily to the past, or can it be argued that it allows us to better remember what would otherwise be forgotten?

I dunno. It still seems odd to me whenever I see a young person (teens or twenties) walking around with Bob Marley or Beatles t-shirts. It seems unlikely that the young people of the 1960s, for example, would have been walking around with Kate Smith, Benny Goodman and Jimmy Durante t-shirts. They were busy living and appreciating in what was their now.

And whenever I happen to tune-in to one of those singing competition shows, they're always having a tribute night to artists whose catalogues are decades old (Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elton John, etc). Again, if such a program had been on during the 1960s, would they have been doing tributes to artists any older than Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry? Seems unlikely.

Of course we also have easy access to old movies and TV shows nowadays. Films that, at the time, had a life expectancy of a few weeks at the theater and then that was it, are now available to watch and re-watch however much we desire. That adds some confusion, however, to the constant churn of remakes being foisted upon us. I mean, it's one thing to give us a remakes of Hawaii Five-0 or Superman, if the original versions weren't around, but....

So, yeah, sure, put on that reissued platter of The Beatles, stream a classic Bowie album, watch Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past, or wear the Bob Marley t-shirt without any irony. This is American, where we can do such things freely. And they're good things, right? As long as it's not stunting our cultural and creative growth, of course.


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