Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Awesome, funky, and a little sad

Holy moley - a musician performing LIVE on a TV show without lip syncing. And it's not ANY show you were thinking of! The seventies were a great time to be a kid.

Now, from a purely subjective point of view, there is no way that this is not awesome. I mean, there's probably a mathematical proof of awesomeness somewhere on the web, and it links to this video as an example.

It's got great musicians, great sound (especially for TV), and a real, live band getting funky and occasionally slipping up. It's not lip-synced or auto-tuned, there's no choreography, and it's decidedly grown up music. Yet clearly, the kids love it. Look at the little guy bopping around up on the balcony! You can't fake that -- somebody just told him to dance, and he did, because he likes the music.

Now here's the sad part: the more I think abou it, the more I'm disappointed that my kids don't get to watch stuff like this. Kids' TV these days is all very carefully programmed and tailored to specific age groups, with carefully tailored music, usually "performed" by kids, backed by faceless studio musicians.

You'd never see Stevie Wonder on kids' TV these days -- he's a grownup, making music for grownups. Good heavens, who knows what he'll do? He might sing about grownup things. "When you believe in things, that you don't understand, then you suffer," would never pass muster at Disney or Nickelodeon. Or, for that matter, PBS.

I don't want my kids listening to gangsta rap, or death metal, or other decidedly "adult"-themed stuff. But there's a lot of good "grownup" (as opposed to "adult") music out there that I would like my kids to hear, and they just don't get a chance to.

I play my CDs for them, but I certainly don't know (or even like) every kind of music out there. But I still want my kids to hear as much as possible, if only to broaden their experience and give them a richer life. TV and radio should provide that service, but they fail miserably.

Who to blame? The counter-culture slashdot-reading nerd in me wants to blame ClearChannel and the RIAA and Disney mafia and all those other evil corporate overlords who own our media. And that's correct, to a point.

But it's also our fault. We brought this on ourselves. We bought their pablum, and fed it to our kids, and didn't look for a better (harder) way. We allowed PBS to become the domain of the early child education "experts" who can't imagine exposing our kids to anything that's not age-appropriate.

Kids need to see grownups being grownups. That's how they learn to be grownups. I would guess that the vast majority of American kids have never ever heard live music, not even a church organ. My kids get to see the band at our church, and I'm grateful for that. But most kids don't have that opportunity - seeing grownups making real grownup music.

My kids will definitely be watching (and dancing to) Stevie when I get home tonight. And I might even get out my guitar and play for them. I'm not a great musician, and I'm a lousy singer, but at least I'll be making music.

And I hope you'll do the same. Play music for your kids. (Start with Stevie Wonder!) Take them to concerts. Dig out your mom's old records. Expand their horizons.

Rock on.

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