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No such thing as old music

September 28, 2011

One of  the more enjoyable interviews I have conducted in recent years was with Rick Wakeman, the be-caped keyboardist of the old band Yes, who went on to a highly successful solo career.  Something he told me  bears repeating, old music is not old to everyone.

He was on a tour in South America when he was approached by a young man holding a classic Wakeman LP that he wanted autographed. A bit surprised,  Rick asked him why he was listening to such old music.  The man replied that he had only heard it for the first time a day or so earlier and that while it may be old to the composer, it was new to him.

Like Rick, I had never really thought of it this way.  I probably should have, given that when I played almost the entire works of The Beatles to my then-eight or nine-year old son on a long car trip, I knew every word of the lyrics but he had never heard any of it.  (It turned him into a music fanatic like his old man, by the way).

My own listening has become a case in point.  There are  classic albums and classic bands  that for one reason of another I did not listen to when they first came out and that I have “discovered” since. For me, they are new.

One such is Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks”, which I only listened to properly about a year ago. When I did, I played it through about five times in a row. Superb.

I have also recently “discovered”  The Neville Brothers, the Strawbs and Howlin’ Wolf, among others. All old, but new to me.

This does not, by the way, include music revisionism — the strange phenomenon of musicians dismissed as lightweight by many contemporaries but then re-assessed and made beloved later. The Monkees and ABBA are the poster children for this.

But all this is what makes music so wonderful. Not only can you hear and embrace  newcomers (of which more in a later post), but you immerse yourself for hours in music that is old and new at the same time.

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