Music and Family Defines Every Generation

Category: Weekly Columns

My son performing at a Rage Against the Machine Tribute concert (photo by Bruce Sallan)

Music and family, aka the “Generation Gap,” affects every generation and family. I’ve enjoyed music for as long as I can remember.  There were even genetic connections in my family. My father played violin and his father was a conductor who had perfect pitch.  When it came to me, I could passably play guitar and I’ve been told that I have a decent singing voice. I think my rendition of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is especially good.  Music tends to define every generation and now, that I have teenagers, I’m enjoying their different tastes in music, although I sometimes roll my eyes and cover my ears in discomfort.

Over the past century, I think this has been a pattern for every generation.  My parents’ generation was the generation that decried rock ‘n’ roll as the devil’s work.  Elvis Presley was their first shock followed pretty soon thereafter by the British Invasion, specifically The Beatles.  I remember as a ten-year-old watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, loving them, and experiencing my parents’ horror at their long hair.

In retrospect, it really seems quaint to think that the hair length of John, Paul, George, and Ringo could even raise an eyebrow.  Just a few short years later, the sixties evolved in full psychedelic bloom, in-your-face defiance, and rebellion. I continue to believe that the sixties generation did more damage than any generation in the past 100 or more years.

When it came to music, I chose to “educate” my boys about the music that I felt was good, important, and worth hearing.  The first concert I took them to see was Bruce Springsteen at Dodger Stadium.  They were about six and nine at the time, and Springsteen didn’t actually begin to perform until a good two hours after scheduled.  Within the first hour of his concert, one of the boys got a headache and the other was falling asleep.  We left shortly afterward.

Will got a guitar for his elementary school graduation present and took a liking to it and rock ‘n’ roll, specifically.  We later went to see Eric Clapton, whom I believe is a legendary and classic performer that is essential Rock ‘N’ Roll historical knowledge. Will liked him, but in his opinion Slash (the guitarist for Guns ‘N’ Roses) was much cooler.  Soon, we were attending concerts of groups that Will discovered and we went to see Green Day and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as a weekend music festival with dozens of groups.

Green Day and The Red Hot Chili Peppers seemed to me to be perfect crossover artists for my generation and my boys’ generation.  We all liked them.

Then came Eminem, at which point the generation gap took full hold of us.  David, my younger son, was not much interested in music during these years while Will was devouring Eminem and many other performers that were equally alien to me.  However, Will’s musicianship was also growing and his skill at guitar and later, drums, and vocals were growing exponentially.

Will performed at various places, through Rock Schools and his high school, and refined and changed his music interests almost weekly.  He was finding “his voice” and it was foreign to me, much as The Beatles were to my parents four decades earlier.

When the three of us would get in the car, Will would always want to “play music for me.”  I was fooled to believe he actually wanted to introduce me to “his” music when all he really wanted to do was play his music.  It was an education.  David didn’t seem interested until…

Until one day he asked to play some music for me.  He had made a special playlist just for me and I believe it was just for me.  He wanted to show me how much different his taste in music was from his brother.  I was pleasantly surprised when I actually sort of liked almost all the songs on that list.  When I asked him who they were, I did not recognize a single name!

That experience inspired the subject of this column and I asked David to give me that list of songs and artists to include in the following manner.  Below you will find two columns. One column is the name of the artist and the other the name of the song. I want you to see how well you know contemporary music of David’s generation. Can you match the artist and song?

Adele    ~~~~~~~~~~                                     “Grenade”

Bruno Mars   ~~~~~~~~~~                             “Meet Me Halfway”

Black Eyed Peas   ~~~~~~~~~~                      “Valerie”

Amy Winehouse    ~~~~~~~~~~                     “Dogs Days Are Over”

Florence and the Machine   ~~~~~~~~~~        “Rolling in the Deep”

How’d you do?* I did not know, as mentioned, a single one of the artists or the songs.  While I did like David’s musical tastes more than Will’s evolving taste into Scream Metal, it was still amazing to me that these songs, which were Top Ten hits, all of them, were completely unknown to me.  It made me feel old.  I know, I know, as the boys would say, “You ARE old.”

This is just another one of those parenting moments that makes me think back to my parents and their challenges with me.  The irony related to my parents is that when I got to be an adult, I began to learn about and love the singers of their generation.  Sinatra, Dean Martin, Crosby, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ella, Como, Durante, and so many more became as dear to me as all those sixties artists I revered just a few years earlier.

I can’t help but wonder if my sons will also later appreciate the artists I grew up with?


Grenade – Bruno Mars

Meet Me Halfway – Black Eyed Peas

Valerie – Amy Winehouse

Dog Days Are Over – Florence and the Machine

Rolling In the Deep – Adele


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