Music is always changing. It always has and always will. But does music change to reflect the times or do the times change in reflection of the music?
It’s kind of like the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Upon first thought, you would think that music reflects the times because the music of the era is often times about what was going on in the world during those times. But…can the opposite also be true? Does music have enough influence to actually change what is going on in the world?
Take the Depression Era. “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” was a big hit. There were many songs that told about the hardships. There were others that did quite the opposite though. The times were depressing enough and many musicians sought to change the tone by uplifting tunes that cheered up a very distraught nation.
Music of the 40’s and 50’s was much simpler than the music of today. Perry Como sang, “Catch a Falling Star” to a crooning nation. By the end of the 50’s, things were changing and along came Elvis Pressley.
Then there were the 60’s with the Vietnam War and rebellion of the youth. Songs were written about the happenings such as “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival and also the account of the Ohio riots, “Ohio” by Neil Young. But in the same era, there were songs begging for peace, like John Lennon’s “Imagine”.
Both the 60’s and 70’s music were widely about drugs. Some were pro-drugs, others were against but since drug use was so prevalent in the era, it was often in the music. Even music that did not state drugs were suspected to be about them like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by the Beatles. Did the music influence the listener to use, or not use, drugs though?
The music of the 90’s were often comprised of Grudge sounds and lyrics. Much of it reflected the “don’t care” attitude of the age. Greasy hair, greasy clothes and lazy was often implied in the music of Generation X.
Even in recent times, there are songs that are about what’s going, about 9-11 and Afghanistan. There are also peace-loving songs that praise and encourage the world being as one.
Today, there is a mechanical edge to music in many cases. There are machines that play drums and keyboards are electronic. Sophisticated software has led to many new sounds. Music is indeed reflective of the day in which we live, mechanical and technical. And, perhaps we are influenced by the music and have become more mechanical and technical as the music we listen to has.
Music has always told us the story of what was going on with the generation of the day. It’s hard to say which it is, if the music of an era reflects what was going on at that time, or if the people are reacting to what was going on in the music. Perhaps,…it’s a bit of both.