When it comes to staying current with music trends, I often feel like Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes interviewing Lady GaGa in her undies. Curious but a little flummoxed.
In the interests of staying hip… if staying hip is still a condition that one aspires to…I watched the Grammys awards show. “You gave up Masterpiece Theater?” asked my incredulous daughter. Well no, I taped the Grammys to watch later. One has certain cultural imperatives.
Yet, I don’t want to ever turn into one of those people who grouses about today’s music, at least not without hearing it.
I was happily crooning along right from the beginning, thanks to the opening tribute to Aretha Franklin, one of the leaders of my pack, appearing near-svelte in her video, her tunes elegantly delivered by five younger stars who like every female musician on the stage that night owe a debt to Aretha and the other older sisters of rock.
There were always big name women singers, like Billie Holiday and Ella, but in the 1950s and 60s when my generation was discovering our own music, it was more about girl backup groups. They dressed up sparkly and had gorgeous voices but they didn’t get much front and center time until the likes of Diana Ross, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Tina Turner. And, of course, Sister Aretha, who was the first woman to make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But that didn’t happen until 1987.
I also wanted to check out my other peeps – Bob, Barbra and Mick. I wished the camera had let me see Dylan’s face and that he had played more than three chords on his harmonica, but you have to give him points for always showing up. Barbra’s clear amazing voice soared wonderfully but her mother-of-the-bride dress suffered in a room full of leopard prints and tattooed bottoms. But Mick always makes me proud when he starts to do his rooster moves. You can lip-sync but you cannot body-sync and the boy can still out-strut the best.
I’m grateful for these lasting legends. They’re good p.r. for my demographic.
Spectacle aside, I didn’t see anything revolutionary at the Grammys, although I now will add Esperanza Spalding to my iPod (how hip is that?). Except for new technology, music, pop and otherwise, still comes down to invention, talent and a bit of flash. One generation passes on inspiration to the next. The women wear lots of red lipstick, the guys like black shirts. The product is still called a recording and an album.
And whether we hear it in an ear bud or a portable radio stuck under our pillow, music keeps us going in good or bad times. The day I heard about a friend dying, I put on an old Elton John mix and danced like such a wild thing it made the dog nervous.
My husband mostly ignored the Grammys. At one point he took a look and asked, “Who is this Princess GaGa anyway? Do we have Madonna to credit or blame for this creation.” I explained that she’s no princess, she’s a lady. And actually I think that before we had Madonna we had Cyndi Lauper and Cher to credit or blame for this creation.
Photo: Aretha at Obama inauguration