I was driving with my 25-year-old son. As usual, the XM radio was on the 60s channel, so I asked, “Is it strange that I still listen to songs from the 50s, 60s, and 70s? Are you and your friends attached to your music like we baby boomers are to ours?” He said they weren’t, but he understood that we like our music.
This exchange reminded me of a discussion with students at Stoughton High School (Wisconsin) where I was assistant principal in the early 1980s. Students said they resented radio stations switching to the “oldies” format. (Those were the early days of the format we now take for granted.) I thought, “You can resent it, but ‘oldies’ will be on the radio as long as baby boomers (the largest demographic) want to hear them.”
Thirty years ago that was my explanation for what was on the radio, and my prediction of what would be on today. I was right, but there is another question here. We have the oldies format because boomers still listen. Why do we listen?
Rock and roll captures the times, so nostalgia is one reason. We also listen because we like being the largest demographic. And for some of us, listening to this music has been a daily habit since our first transistor radio at age 12.
But the main reason we listen is that we grew up during the first time in history when a whole generation shared an appreciation for the poetry of our time. Rock and roll was ubiquitous. Listening taught us about culture, politics, sociology and history. The lyrics also said we were shapers of American culture, politics, sociology and history. Isn’t that why we still listen? Rock and roll lyrics are the roots of that message. Don’t we still dream of shaping a more beautiful America?
This is where baby boomers can share stories about their favorite rock and roll lyrics. Stories can be about anything — dances, the beach, partying, cruising, romance, crushes, locker room antics, the carnival, road trips, summer vacation, the lake, field trips, band camp, bus trips, etc. Nostalgia is good when it explains the life experiences that still inspire us today.
Here is a story to get things started:
Song Title: Roll Over Beethoven
Artist/Lyricist: Chuck Berry (1956)
Lyric: “You know, my temperature’s risin’
The jukebox’s blowin’ a fuse.
My heart’s beatin’ rhythm
and my soul keeps a-singin’ the blues.
Roll Over Beethoven and tell Tschaikowsky the news.”
Story: I was 12 when the Beatles hit the scene. They wrote their own songs, but they also paid tribute to early rock and rollers. My first experience of “Roll Over Beethoven” was the Beatles’ version. When I found out it was a Chuck Berry lyric, I gained a new respect for the poetry of early rock and rollers (Jailhouse Rock and Hound Dog, notwithstanding).
Is there a lyric that better reflects the feeling of early rock and roll? Without being disrespectful to Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, Berry pointed to both the history of music and the beginnings of rock and roll. This was a new kind of music; so yes — “Roll over Beethoven and tell Tschaikowsky the news.” (Somebody might want to comment on the Electric Light Orchestra cover, which is a rocking, electronic version that also pays tribute to the masters.)
Click on “Share a Story” and fill out the form. (We might need a separate category for Dylan lyrics.)