Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll (Maybe)
I’m a little worried about the state of rock ‘n’ roll. Rock was the predominant music genre in America but a quick glance at the charts in “Rolling Stone” shows rock has all but disappeared from the realm of popular music.
Instead of the music of righteous rebellion we’re inundated with Britney, boy bands and B.S. Yeah, the B.S. includes the watered-down garbage that passes for country music these days.
I think we’ve just lost touch with our roots. Nothing brought this to my attention like a recent music event I attended purporting to be a tribute to Chuck Berry.
What a waste of my money.
If you’re wondering who Chuck Berry is, I don’t know whether to tell you to keep reading or to stop wasting oxygen by the act of breathing.
Without Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley, music in general would be wearing a very different and wimpier face. You can’t go wrong calling either man the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Every musician on the charts today owes something to them—whether these contemporary musicians know it or not. I wish it was only with pop musicians that this is a problem.
I attended this show thinking of getting an evening’s good entertainment and ended up realizing whys so many bars don’t hire bands. I also realized why the quality of bar music I hear is simply substandard: Because many of today’s musicians are lazy and don’t know the roots of the music they’re playing.
While most of the playing wasn’t necessarily bad, many of the musicians, including one I had thought highly of, played as though they had never heard a Chuck Berry record in their lives. Many of the songs sung were read off idiot cards—the height of musical laziness in my opinion.
I never thought I’d live to see the day a paid musician didn’t know the words to “Memphis.” It wasn’t that long ago it was a barroom staple and a requirement for any bar band regardless of genre.
Which is another thing: Back in the day, most working bands may have had a favorite genre, but could passably play in others. I’d bet Jimmy Lloyd Rea or Larry Robb wouldn’t have any problem pulling Chuck Berry out of their bag of tricks—without idiot cards too.
The reason people like Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and the Stones are still so popular is because they’re serious musicians who understand the importance of tradition. You not just listening to these musicians, you’re also listening to their take on Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters et al.
Elvis’ guitar player, Scotty Moore, once said he thought Elvis “knew every damn song in the world.” That’s the difference between real musicians and those who wonder why they’re still working a day job.
Do the music world a favor. The next time a bar band musician tells you how serious they are about music, ask them about Chuck, Elvis, Robert Johnson—whoever. If said musician pleads ignorance please repair to the nearest plastic bag dispenser and place the bag over said musician’s head—oxygen is a terrible thing to waste.