Today’s Monday Morning Warm-Up: What has moved you lately?
Obviously, the big news of the weekend was the loss of Whitney Houston. My greatest memories of childhood are weaved together with songs from Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson… other stars too, but since we were a religious family, only a few “secular” artists were allowed to be played. Those two stand out the most.
I was thinking this morning that artists like Whitney and Michael are the product of parents who grew up in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, a time when we as black people were fighting for equal rights, equal footing on common ground. There was the Civil Rights Movement and the era of black artists punching through prejudice and status quo just to be able to perform in white clubs, to go in the front and not the back and to be treated with dignity and respect. The artists of yesteryear learned hard work, sacrifice and dedication at their parent’s knee. They saw things that we of this generation (I’m a Xer, some are Y, some are Millenial) have had the blessing of changing times to not be exposed to, for the most part.
Sure, there is still racism and prejudice, backward thinking and the oft-muttered N-word from some members of unpolite society, but for the most part, I have always lived in a world where I can get on a bus and sit where I want. I go to my job where I work with white people and I eat dinner at nice restaurants with a wide variety of cultured people– Caucasian, Hispanic, Indian. I’ve never had a racial slur hurled at me. I’ve never known what it is like to be hungry. I have never not been able to work because of the color of my skin.
In discussing Ms. Houston’s passing with a friend, we talked about how she has a four year old, and who will she remember as a lifelong favorite? Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston and Etta James and Rick James and Tina Marie… all are gone. Will she sit and listen to Niki Minaj albums like I listen to Whitney Houston? Probably not.
Music used to be representative of the struggle to be a proud people. It’s now bragadocious and surface. I consider it expendable. I feel as if the people of my generation are, for lack of a better term, spoiled. We live a life that is over the top, if you let music, film and TV tell it. Mainstream music is irritating whining about not getting the girl, or how fly my car/house/shoes/watch/wife is. Mainstream music is representative of a culture that hasn’t had to struggle for much more than getting up to stand in line for pair of shoes. There are underground artists that are releasing music with meaning, that have a story to tell, but that’s just the point– they’re underground. I hope that parents that want their children to know what good music is, how our legacy is spelled out in classic R&B, that they’ll introduce this music to their children.
What moves me is having something to hold onto, that carries me through today, the now, the temporary. I’m so glad that we have music– physical recordings of our stories and our legends, so that even after they’re gone, they live on.