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Growing Old and New Music: Let’s Examine What Happens

An email arrived the other day from Paul.

I know you did [an Ongoing History] in the last year talking about people liking the music they grew up with and not understanding newer music. I am frustrated that most people I know have no interest in learning about New music.

I’m 52 and grew up with the Beatles and then when “The New Music” of Billy Joel and The Knack Tom Petty, Pat Benatar showed up I was excited. As time went by I did let music slip in importance to me and I fell back on what I grew up on.

But then I got tired of hearing the same 6 Or 7 songs every day on the radio on way to work and on way home, even classic rock. I started to crave anything new or different.

So now I’m always on the lookout for new music, music style. There is so much good stuff out there. I’m buying more CD’s LP’s and downloads than ever before.

The thing I don’t understand is why people have closed minds on music. I didn’t stop liking the Beatles when I discovered PUP or USS or The Hives. It’s not a war with only 2 sides. I can’t stand when people say music today will never be as good as the Eagles, etc. I feel like I’m alone as an older person that is excited but all the new stuff that’s out there.

Why is it hard for people to listen to something new? I can understand reminiscing but that’s only part of life. I only sent this long email to you because I thought you may understand or sympathize with my musical thoughts.

Here’s to music! Old and new!

Let’s unpack what Paul has to say.

First of all–and I wish I could remember where I read this quote–it’s the biological right for every generation to believe that the music of their youth is the greatest music ever made.

There’s that sweet spot in our lives–usually between the time we enter high school and our early 20s–that music becomes an essential part of our being. It’s this era when we’re most open to new ideas, new concepts, new sounds. We have time and money to devote to experience music in all its forms. And then we use music to figure out who we are and then use our music tribe affiliations to proclaim our identity to the world.

But by the time we get to our mid-20s, life starts to get in the way. Relationships. Kids. Careers. Mortgages. We no longer have the same time, energy, money and interest in pursuing new music the way we once did. And because we’ve (mostly) become comfortable with our identities, we no longer rely on music as much as we once did to tell everyone who we are.

As life’s stressed build up, it’s just easier to go back to the music that made us feel good when we were younger. We lose contact with new trends and sounds–and when we are exposed to what’s hot with the kids, we may tend to dismiss it. “What’s wrong with today’s music? It’s not as good as it used to be.”

Most people are totally cool with this existence, which explains the vast array of classic rock and adult hits radio stations. There are even classic hip-hop stations in some markets (yes, there is a growing generation gap in hip-hop and rap.)

But then we meet people like Paul. According to data gleaned by Spotify, there’s a subset of the population that has a musical midlife crisis around the age of 42.

This comes from The Guardian:

Some encouragement for all the 42-year-olds suddenly getting into Rihanna or Rudimental: at least your midlife crisis is less dangerous than buying an unsuitably-powerful motorbike.

Streaming music service Spotify has identified 42 as the age when many of its users rediscover the joys of current pop music, as part of research into how their tastes mature over time.

“During the teenage years, we embrace music at the top of the charts more than at any other time in our lives. As we grow older, our taste in music diverges sharply from the mainstream up to age 25, and a bit less sharply after that,” explained the company on its Insights blog.

“We’re starting to listen to ‘our’ music, not ‘the’ music. Music taste reaches maturity at age 35. Around age 42, music taste briefly curves back to the popular charts — a musical midlife crisis and attempt to harken back to our youth, perhaps?”

Continue reading here.

Paul’s midlife crisis/reawakening has brought him much joy. Yet this article at cautions against losing that relationship we have with the music of our youth.

When I was in my 20’s I swore I wouldn’t continue to listen to the music of my youth for the rest of my life. I vowed I’d grow and expand. I wanted to listen to new music, stay relevant, always be cool.

I grew up in the 80’s with the best Alternative, Rock, and dance music of all time. So, I continually return to that music of my youth and I don’t listen to current music. In fact, I stopped listening to the radio when I started hooking up my iPod to my car audio system. I gave up new music for absolute control over my listening experience. Now I find new music when I actively search for it or someone else introduces me. I should Spotify. There are always new options. Amazon and Google would be happy to take my money. I don’t have to keep buying, I can subscribe to music. But I’m used to owning it.

My last and current cars have kept me wedded to my iPod with their audio hook-ups. Over the past 13 or 14 years, I have filled my iPod Classic with all kinds of music. I fell in love with the Blues and for a long time that was the only music I listened to. I have collected 1200 blues songs. Before that, it was jazz and jazz vocals, old standards. A smattering of classical.

I have continued to listen to classic Rock-n-Roll from the 60’s and 70’s. The holy trio of JimJanis and Jimi will always live in my collection. That was the music I listened to in high school before I discovered the Ramones. My digital collection includes old R & B, Disco, and Funk. But for a long time I didn’t have a lot of the 80’s music I never stopped loving. I kept Morrissey and a dozen others, but the collection felt incomplete.

Keep reading.

Bottom line, Paul, is that musical lifestyles differ from person to person. What matters (to me, anyway) is that people continue to experience music in some way, in any way, be it music of the past, the now or the future. Because a life without music can be terribly, terribly dull.

Bonus reading:The Reminiscence Bump.”




Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37848 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “Growing Old and New Music: Let’s Examine What Happens

  • I can certainly identify with Paul. Being 55 and going through the same sort of thing. I still share new music with my kids and anyone who will listen. I intellectually understand why people stick to the music of their youth but emotionally I get so much more from living with the endless new. I still love the music from my late teens and my twenties. I just can’t ONLY listen to that.

    By the way that 42 reference reminded me about something else…

  • I’m with Paul. I had a lull in my 20s simply because I had a hard time discovering new music (no good radio stations where I lived, and the net was very hit and miss at the time).

    I moved back to Toronto in 2000 and have been listening to new music ever since. I still listen to old music too — one benefit of liking alternative is a lot of it crosses eras well.

    I can’t stand the idea of listening only to music that gets less and less known as time goes on. Like Gang of Four said, nostalgia — it’s no good.


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