The Death of Rock n Roll?

It was jam packed concert on a recent Saturday night. To me, it seemed as if all 6000+ seats were filled. I turned and looked out over the audience before the lights went out. In my studies of religion, I remember always being taught that the most segregated hour in America was 11am on Sundays – when we all divided up and went to our own churches. Music concerts can be the same way. As I looked backwards, the placed was filled to the brim with old white people, myself included.

John Mellencamp still has plenty of fight left in him - The Washington Post

Ah, but ain’t that America for you and me?Ain’t that America? Somethin’ to see, babyAin’t that America? Home of the free, yeahLittle pink houses for you and meOoh yeah, for you and me

– Pink Houses, John Mellencamp

We had gathered to hear John Mellencamp, another old white fella. He’s now 71. Where did all the years go? He sang his heart out, in between drags on his cigarettes. I felt he wanted to jump and hop vigorously when the chorus called for it, but perhaps his hip wouldn’t allow it. We all understood. There were many around me who hobbled in on canes and walkers, if you can believe it.

We had very comfortable seating for our latter days. Getting up to sing along was a good idea every now and then, if for nothing else but to get the blood flowing to the extremities. Each time someone had to go to the bathroom – those bladders aren’t what they used to be – the groaning and creaking was audible as each of us stood to make room down the aisle. There used to be, and probably still is at many places, an unmistakable open-air smell of a couple characters who would faithfully break out some weed to celebrate. Now we are typically surrounded indoors by the pervasive scent of too much fabric softener.

“Aging is scary but fascinating, and great talent morphs in strange and often enlightening ways.” ― Bruce Springsteen

I realize that rock is a serious business but I kept thinking as I watched the band play with frowns on their faces, those guys seem really mad about something. Maybe they were just up too late? I get that kind of expression when I try to remember things. There were a lot of songs on that play list. What if what used to look cool now just comes across as needing to eat more fiber in your diet?

It was a wonderful night. The music was loud, the songs were memorable and everyone seemed to have a great time. I thought it must be a remarkable experience for a musician to be able to just strum a few chords on his guitar and have the whole hall burst into his song. Mellencamp has many of those. His songs have surely made it into the America’s list of essential anthems:

Pink Houses
Jack & Diane
Cherry Bomb
Small Town
Authority Song

Actually, I didn’t start attending concerts until I was in my 30’s. A late bloomer? I remember all that music from my youth, but the live events later in my life brought back all kinds of memories – even if some were imagined. It was a new layer of fun to hear that music in person and to be in a giant crowd all singing along. Never underestimate the force that crowds can have on individuals – for good and for bad. I have so many fantastic concert memories with friends and family. Being together is always worth every penny and the memories we build holds us even tighter. Often difficult to put into words, just a big smile and a nod of the head.

Geddy Lee Recalls 'Difficult' Final Rush Concert

All this machinery making modern music
Can still be open-hearted.
Not so coldly charted, it’s really just a question
Of your honesty, yeah, your honesty.   

-The Spirit of Radio, RUSH

As I think back on the Mellencamp night and all those past concerts, I wonder how many are left? Band members are dying, the audience is aging and tours are becoming ever more complicated to pull off.  Where am I going to go to replace this one-of-a-kind experience? I have a dear friend that attends Better Than Ezra with me every year. RUSH is out of business. I used to go with friends and even took my daughter way back when. They typically attract males only, but she loved them! The other day I saw that Mick announced Fleetwood Mac was done for. I tried to attend their shows every time they came to town. I’m typing this and remembering one of the last times I heard them here in Houston. I turned and discovered I was next to a dear friend from work. He’s no longer here on earth.

Seems like Stevie Nicks is still out there on the road. She’s one of my favorites. When she calls it quits, I’ll know it’s really all over. At least for me.

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

– Landslide, Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks talks 'amazing relationship' with Prince | Gigwise

I guess the real goal is to try and live with as few regrets as possible. Mostly those should relate to the people in your life. Have adventures, but make sure they are shared with others. Think of your life like it’s a story.

What chapter in your life needs work right now?
How should your past chapters contributing to this next one?
When is it time to turn the page and move to the next part of your story?
Which characters need to make a reappearance in the story of your life?

Turn the dial on your radio back to those old songs from long ago and remember again, make some of that joy real today, not a ghost of yesterday.

2 thoughts on “The Death of Rock n Roll?

  1. Loved this – especially your advice at the end. Reading your description of the crowd made me think of all the Southern Gospel concerts my husband and I have attended over the years. Every year we lose more and more of the great artists.


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