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August 8, 2006

Your Weekly Reeder: Where has our music gone?

At some point, and I’m not sure when, pop music and I got divorced. I’m not sure whether it was a matter of me abandoning music, or music abandoning me. Probably a little of both. Whatever, it has been a long time since I spent nights trolling the pubs and bistros, catching the hot new acts or the familiar old ones that included friends.Around the LEO office, we have a lot of serious musicians. I ask questions and listen to the answers because I’ve always believed that music is as good a reflection as any of the American mood, particularly as it exists among young people.One of these days in the near future, I hope to get around to seeing my younger friends perform, even though I doubt that I’ll relate to their work on more than a surface level. The generation gap, I suppose, is simply too vast.You see, I like music that makes you want to dance.Even now, you still hear a lot of the songs I’m talking about. There’s “Gimme Some Lovin’,” by the Spencer Davis Group, and “Shout” by the Isley Brothers and “Hold On I’m Comin’” by Sam and Dave.I like anything that makes you want to “fast dance,” as we called the jitterbug, or do the Electric Slide. I still think it’s way cool to twirl a lady around or dip her (without dropping her, of course).Where did the dance music go?I like music that reminds you of what it’s like to be in love on a soft and starry summer night when you’re holding your best girl tight and her hair smells clean and fresh and you think your heart is going to pound right out of your chest.For my money, the top romantic song of all time is “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers. I also get a little sappy when I hear stuff like “Twelfth of Never” by Johnny Mathis or “The Way You Look Tonight” by The Lettermen.The original rebels, Sinatra and Elvis, did a lot of love songs, and to my knowledge, none had lyrics that did anything but regard women with respect and esteem, even worship.Where did the love songs go?I like sing-along, drink-along and air-guitar-along music.This is what you can find in any karaoke bar on any night. My personal favorites include “Great Balls of Fire” by The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis, and “Blue Suede Shoes” by Carl Perkins and “Sea of Love” by Phil Phillips, although I’ve been told that my rendition of “Cry Baby” by Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters is particularly engaging.Look at today’s charts and show me the singalong stuff of tomorrow. Please. I really want to know where to find it.I like convertible music.This is the kind that makes you want to get out on the road on a perfect summer day, put the top down and just go, the radio set at a decibel level that’s above normal but not so loud that it will literally shake the ground when you stop (I hate those guys).The best convertible song ever is “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers, but I also highly recommend “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N’ Roses and “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys.At the end of last basketball season, Rick Pitino said his top summer project was to rent a convertible and drive across the country with a couple of his old buddies. I hope he did it, and I hope they took plenty of music by Dion & The Belmonts with them. I particularly like “I Wonder Why.”Finally, I love folk music, especially the protest kind that makes us search our souls. (“Where have all the flowers gone …”)During the 1960s, as Vietnam grew into a nightmare and the Civil Rights movement tested our consciences, I found considerable comfort in the work of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and several others. They articulated our confusion and outrage. They appealed to our collective conscience and would not let us ignore what was happening around us.Today, unless I’ve missed it or commercial radio has banned it, protest music is the one voice that’s missing from the national debate over President Bush’s unconscionable war in Iraq.I’m not talking about the dark, cynical garbage that trashes our country or advocates countering violence with more violence. I’m talking about the high-minded stuff that appeals to our idealism.Is it out there? If so, where? And answer me this: Did I leave music or did music leave me? Contact the writer at billyr@leoweekly.com