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Tag Archives: Bob Dylan
Have you ever noticed how annoying people who grew up in the 90s are about music? Well, I am one, so watch it! I think the reason we love that music goes beyond the fact that we grew up in that era (though that helps), and I’d like to explore those reasons.
Nerdvana? Seriously? So, I was in a particularly 90s-like area the other day (grungy, the ex-cool part of town, angsty music), and I was talking to another 90s friend of mine about that era of music and culture. Of course, culture and music are slippery, in that, they cannot be summed up as a singularity every decade, so for the purpose of this discussion, I am talking about early to mid-90s grunge and folk music.
So, the first thing that I think 90s kids love about 90s music is the earnestness. There was no irony in those early 90s lyrics. It may have been difficult and obfuscated, maybe best represented by lyrics like “A mulatto / An albino / A mosquito / My libido / Yay!” But all that aside, there was a feeling at the time that music was actually making a difference. The culture was aggressively shouting for political and social change (not so different from the late 60s), and we reconnected with a more earnest (in my opinion) approach to music, eschewing the over-produced party music of the 80s. That that, Reagan! “Jelly beans, Nancy?” … Nevermind (get it?).
You’re embarrassing yourself. Not only that, it felt like that age of music was better for women. We had female song-writers who weren’t just pretty and put on stage for their beauty (as Tom Petty so accurately describes in his song “Joe” off The Last DJ album) but were great songwriters and played music traditionally owned by men: Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos, Dar Williams, Dolores O’Riordan, Sinead O’Connor, Fiona Apple, Shirley Manson, Sheryl Crow (before she got lame), and others. This feels, in looking back, a huge shift from the 80s pseudo-hyper-masculine face of popular music, though people like Joan Jett and the women from Hart were movers. Now, I recognize and concede that Indie music (where I find any and all good music at this point) today has some great female musicians, but I’m talking popular music here.
Remember the good ol’ days? Okay, gramps. Not only that, many of my favorite musicians of different eras put out amazing albums in that time, maybe their best work. Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, Into The Great Wide Open, and Echo are perhaps my favorite albums of his. R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People came out in 1991. Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind is a classic. Johnny Cash’s unforgettable American albums began to come out in the 90s as well. The list goes on …
So, what’s your gripe with modern music, lamo? I guess I would say that I’m tired of the American Idol approach to music. I’m tired of image over substance. I’m tired of dishonest music, where pretty people sing karaoke to lyrics and music written by someone else (and yes, I know this has gone on for a long time, but it was not always so rampant in our popular musicians). I think the Indie music scene is exciting, though often “ironic.” It’s solid stuff, but lacks the sort of punchy hope that came along with the early 90s music scene.
You may disagree with me. I’m sure you will (unless you’re a 90s kid like me … at which point, I would say, “GET THEE TO THE 00s, BENEDICT ARNOLD!”), but the point is, every era does some things really well. I’m just highlighting why the 90s were a special time in music. Maybe it is just loving what we’re used to, what we grew up with, but I do think it’s more than that. Besides, my personal favorite era of music is the late 50s – early 60s. What do you think?
A poem by any other name. Since I started at EMU, I struggled with poetry, namely, ridiculous postmodern poetry whose focus on deconstruction has destroyed any resemblance to communication. It became nonsense to me, and I was increasingly frustrated that so much attention was drawn to a medium that no one seemed to be reading anymore.
It’s the same with grad school programs. I don’t understand why almost every MFA or Creative Writing program puts at least as much emphasis on poetry as they do fiction, yet if you walk into a book store, the poetry section is made up of one or two shelves, and is loaded with dead poets and the works of Billy Corgan, like Blinking with Fists.
There’s no readership. If not for academia acting as a breathing machine to poetry, it would die. At least, poetry as we know it today (high-falutin, cryptic, elitist, nonsensical, inaccessible, and lame) would die. So does that mean poetry, in reality, is dead? I don’t think so.
Bob Dylan and Eddie Vedder will be remembered. I think poetry that will be remembered from this age of academic elitism (though there are some good exceptions) will be song lyrics. And this is the type of poetry I have taken part in for some time. I don’t often like to think of songs as poems, but they are. I’ve been writing songs since I was seventeen, and I have two full albums to show for it, with hopefully another on the way.
Does that make me a poet? Some would say no. I think so. I wouldn’t say I’m a good one. My poems are musical (duh), often rhyme, and are easy enough to break down, lyrically. I don’t have any interest in presenting the reader (or the listener) with the Emperor’s new clothes, and typically, I have something to say, so I want them to get it.
I’m not a terrible songwriter, I don’t think. I have definitely improved. As is true of most of my writing, I value honesty, and so, often the topics and stories in my songs are pulled directly from experience. In my lyrics, I have some themes I like draw from, as well as certain types of texts I cite.
I write about my life, and I often write about it from a religious perspective. I talk about politics, disenfranchisement, Satan, death, loss, and I like to say “I love you” in strange ways. Below is a song I wrote a while back called “You don’t need me.” It’s a love song, but it doesn’t come off that way. It’s saying, though I have all of these responsibilities in life, and though it may seem that I am nothing in the context of this world, it’s all meaningless if you don’t need me.
I wrote this song when I was playing with my old band, The Really Bad British Accents (Ron Kersey – Lead Guitar, Mitch Crane – Bass, and Howie Parks – Drums). You can listen to it here.
You Don’t Need Me
My computer fried, I lost all my memory
My TV died, where are all my friends
The light goes on, but I don’t know why
They don’t talk, they don’t sing, yeah, and they don’t cry
They don’t need me, they don’t need me
They don’t need me in this world
They don’t need me, they don’t need me
They don’t need me in this world
Wake up every morning, go to my job
Press the same dull grey button down and again
I keep pushing that button, but I don’t know why
But my boss gets rich, yeah, and I die
Every day I pay my taxes to the man
He broke ‘em, he took ‘em, now he can do what he can
Just seems like I’m paying more and more
But the world ain’t getting better, and neither am I
I vote every time the ballot comes my way
But the man I want, he never wins
I guess he doesn’t have that particular sin
But I keep checking that box or writing him in
It’s been a long long time since you’ve been in my home
My house in empty and my bed is cold
You could forgive, but I cannot forget
The man I was and the man I met
You don’t need me, you don’t need me
You don’t need me in this world.