23 December 2021
A Parting of the Ways: Not Forgotten
My professional and personal work with music leads me in many directions. Some of those pathways are pleasant as I remember songs and melodies of my childhood, an era that was replete with first-rate music of many different types. Yet other pathways are stark and horrifying reminders, not of the melodic numbers as much as of the gaping distance between the people who once upon a time came to know real music — and the pathetic consumers who appear not to even be aware of the life force that was popular music before . . . 1990.
I often cite that date as when many things died: the patriotic purposes of grand old political parties in myriad countries; the duty of the individual to stand up for cherished beliefs; the reverence traditionally granted to those traditions and institutions of the past that brought the free democracies to that memorable year of grace 1990.
There took place a parting of the ways for me, personally, during that year, while I confronted treachery in my life. I’ve since looked back at those difficult months, which led to even more difficult months. I’ve realized that my resolute struggles to put heartache behind me were hampered by the god-awful songs being played on the radio. The music of the post-Cold War era began its disgusting descent into atonal and asinine dischord during the late 1980s; but once the globalist phase of world history got going in the 1990s, the music died.
Percy Tyrone Sledge was a poor young man from Alabama who’d been working farm jobs, and then was clocking hours as an orderly in a hospital when he paired his soulful voice with a certain bluesy, heart-wrenching ballad in 1966. “When A Man Loves a Woman” hit it big for the Atlantic Record Company, but not, monetarily speaking, for Sledge. He was able to permanently leave his salaried job at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama. He had not, however, written that song, so his recording contract gave him pretty much the thrill of singing for his supper, on the road: 100+ days a year. Precisely how many pennies on each vinyl that sold went to Percy, I do not know. I doubt he got a full accounting of that accounting either.
Sometime during 1991, American vocalist Michael Bolton re-did the song, thereby committing the now ubiquitous copy-cat act of melodic desecration called “a cover”. Back then, upon hearing those strain-filled notes, I spent most of my time in turning off the radio.
I mean no offense to Mr. Bolton, but his rendition is not what I would call “soulful”. Painful to the ear, yes, but not pleasing, and certainly not emanating from any heart or soul within his being. In fact, he sounds as if he is being strangled. If you opt for the wounded animal shriek, then Mr. Bolton is your kind of vocal stylist.
The profitable but appalling trend had thus begun, of people from comfortable backgrounds, whom I refer to as “middle class brats”; and from rather privileged strata in society — trying to mimic the impassioned voices of impoverished but gifted young men and young women who had sought the spotlight through song. That avenue was their go-road to flee childhood homes in a society that nowadays no longer exists. Blessed we are in America that the scarring cruelties of penury and bigotry are vastly reduced in this land of opportunity. To pretend, however, that the current-day “performers” even remotely comprehend the savagery of living in the poverty of the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, even 1970s, that charade is not laughable.
The watering-down of gutsy singing began, though, much earlier, as the hedonistic hippies relentlessly, loudly, and obscenely wore away at the morality of at least this nation, the U.S.A. In 1972, when Luther Ingram admitted rhythmically, “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right,” he spoke from a tormented conscience. Six short years later, in 1978, Barbara Mandrell country-fied slicked the tune into a defiant gal-of-independence mantra of cheeky-immorality that was devoid of a heart torn by passion and devotion. (Just the switch in sexes, genre, arrangement, and tempo in the expression of this confessional ballad was a step in the wrong direction, but I’m a Stax aficionado.)
I find it a vulgar insult for any corporately packaged “vocalist” to profitably impersonate, almost note-for-note, the naturally gifted recording artists from fifty, sixty, even seventy years ago. It’s an artistic travesty for any histrionic headliner to parasitically appropriate the artistic accomplishments of a dead singer who never got the chance to collect the kind of coin tossed at these narcissistic imposters and tacky imitators of the real thing. I also find it grotesquely unmusical for anyone to suggest that music is what has been peddled by the mimickers and u-u-laters of these past thirty years.
And I find raunchy and repugnant that the soul-less corporate shills persist in promoting the shrieking and wailing of whatever they deem to be the lucrative essence of soul, parodied in the name of Social Justice; all while the mega-corp backed attention-whores commit all forms of injustice to a society that once knew and treasured music, morality, and the brilliant predecessors whom the Corporation is currently ripping off.
It’s worse than grave-robbing by medical students of yore. At least, those sawbones-in-training carved up the corpse for clinical insights into disease. These stage-hoggers spew cacophony all over whatever golden oldies they fantasize they can yell and screech and shove into the recesses of the human heart.
(Don’t get me going on the execrable taste and minimal talents of the crooner-looters who, through the black magic of modern technology, sing songs with famous but dead singers. Horning in on White Christmas, in an Official Music Video no less, is the nadir of musical impropriety, indecency, and “pop” profanity of vocal appropriation. Well, I guess I got going on It, and It will require an hour or so before that sensation of abomination is gone! Two’s company, three’s a sleazy crowd!)
faux news, faux music, faux comedy, faux drama, faux dramedy, faux literature, faux entertainment, faux fashion, faux history, faux weather, faux science, faux reality.
Fill in the blank after the word, faux, and you’ve got a pretty good grasp on the marketed miasma of what used to be talent, informed opinion, skilled labour, and high-quality commodities. Those goods were good, and they sold, easy and quickly, to any age group, starting from infants in the cradle to the geriatric campaigners of life in the home; and to any “demographic”. We were Americans back then, not hyphenated slices of a focus-grouped society.
And while “this too shall pass” (although it’s taking a whole lot longer than I’d like), I must avow that the key lessons from this pitiful epoch are to be learned not so much from the collapse of a fabricated-culture that never really took off, or settled in. The vital cautionary tale is to be told in how the past thirty years are remembered.
The crumbling elites of the past three decades are manically maneuvering to make up The History, now, quickly, before too many peoples in too many nations determine the truth about how the most basic and decent of human needs were exploited for — a word that I’ve quickly come to detest — monetization.
Since the early 1990s, billions of dollars have flowed, like water over an enormous earth-fill dam about to crumble, from one globalist con game to another. Music, true music, had no place in such a world. For music —melody, lyrics, mood, sensation, memory-making miracles all of them — real music has no place in a sphere of fraud and venality. Music, at least good music, aspires to comfort the heart, to elevate the soul, to unite mankind across the continents and across the centuries.
The syncopated and synthetic sounds of the past three decades have not been music. The world has lived without music, save the music of the distant past. And a world without music is evil; ergo, the skyrocketing sales of Songs From Past Eras.
The faux-music of the past thirty years can be compared to the collapsing of an earth-fill dam called Teton. Technical rumor had it that the structure was supposed to have been made of concrete. Even more technical rumor blamed design flaws. The cheap gimmicks of the Carter years were also blamed, as was the federal agency itself that built Teton Dam, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
The civil engineers in the know, atop their structural pedestals, at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, believed that such a catastrophic dam failure would never occur to a Corps dam: that flood-control project could withstand the horror-scenario of not just the Standard Project Flood, but the big one, the Probable Maximum Flood.
What has happened to the globalist scheme of a world that was never built to last is the Probable Maximum Flood of 2016. The parting of the ways that began in 2016 cannot be undone, nor will it ever be forgotten.
The freedom lovers and the patriots among us began to hear music again. With songs in our hearts, we are working toward this new year, toward every new year to come. Music, at last, can find new life, and live again.