I know – most of us think of this label, ‘The Day the Music Died’ as February 3rd , 1959, the date of the airplane crash that took the lives of Rock & Roll legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. (the Big Bopper) Richardson, and on a sentimental level I agree, even though I was a mere six years, one month and 3 days old at the time. I was greatly influenced in my youth by that music.
I’ve given you the long tale of my personal musical pedigree on this platform, so I won’t bore you to tears with it again. If you’re genuinely interested, you can search the BLOG, or contact me. I’m happy to rehearse it with you.
I make this point only because musicians and poets who were also able to perform their craft with some modicum of dignity, originality and professionalism didn’t just transport off planet to the Jefferson Starship to be swept away at warp speed to the Beta Quadrant, the Romulan Neutral Zone, or even to some place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Those days, and days since gave life to entertainers like (and it truly pains me to admit this one) the over rated, underwhelmingly talented Elvis Presley. These were the days of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, the Platters, and yes, Pat Boone and Rick Nelson.
They followed along trails paved by Satchmo, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sinatra, Bennett, Davis, Jr., and Deano. Musicians like Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Al Hirt, Dave Brubeck, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.
Poets like Johnny Mercer, Hank Williams, and Sammy Cahn, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and Cole Porter, were followed in turn by the likes of Paul Simon, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Willy Nelson, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and Neil Sedaka.
The list that precedes this one is decades, if not centuries old, and even if I don’t care for Van Halen, I am honor bound to acknowledge that the sheer artistry of his rifs in Beat It are as masterful and eloquent an accomplishment of virtuoso guitar as anything Andres Segovia ever recorded. Similar accolades can be said for the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Brian Setzer.
Virtuoso performance of the vocal variety followed the loss of those three fifties era rockers with singers like Jim Morrison, John Lennon (minus Yoko Oh NO!), Barbara Streisand, Sheena Easton, Shirley Bassey, Tina Turner, Linda Ronstedt, Whitney Houston, Aretha, and Sandy Patti, David Phelps, Whitley Phipps, and others too numerous to mention.
On 3rd February, 1959, the music hit a bump in the road, but on Sunday, 6th February, 2011, beginning with the travesty of Christina Aguillera’s decimation of the National Anthem, and ending with the Blackeyed Peas/Fergie/Slash monstrosity of a halftime show, music, true, memorable music bit the dust for good.
Musicality in every possible nuance – melody, harmony, rhythm, lyrics, arranging, actually performing – they were all shot brutally in the back, replacing music with a lot of meaningless noise and motion.
Gone are the days when a musician took the stage, took microphone in hand and sang or played and sang. Gone is the poetry of the lyricist. Gone are true musicians. The invasion of the music snatchers left in their place overly choreographed, scantily clad lip syncers more concerned with their dance moves, navel piercings and wardrobe malfunctions. Poetry set to music has been replaced by witless repetition set to static-laden redundancy with words banned in most civil society.
And they call these pretenders ‘superstars.’
My guess is that other than a brief footnote in a music history class textbook, Justin Bierber, Lady GaGa, and Snoop Dog and their so-called art will be unknown in fifty years, unlike the timeless classics and musicians from fifty years ago.
February 6, 2011, and perhaps the Grammy’s of the same year – together they signal the death of music, and the sad day the music really did die.