To Soothe the Savage Breast

I owe a lot of my musical taste to my family.

My brothers were both coming of age in the late 1960s, so I got to listen to a lot of music from that era. My dad was also musical; he could play the organ well enough that he volunteered at church from time to time, and could noodle around with a couple other instruments. His and mom’s era was the Big Band sound of the 1940s, and dad had a fondness for classic music too.

So at a very young age I was listening to Tchaikovsky; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; the Beatles; Stravinsky; Cat Stevens; The Who; The Band; Three Dog Night; Duke Ellington; Count Basie; Santana, and a lot more. One day, I was watching Sesame Street, and they had Stevie Wonder on with his band, playing the most funktastic version of “Superstition” I’ve ever heard, and it was a glorious revelation. I was still too young to buy albums (yes, vinyl records – I’m THAT old) on my own at the time, but the song stuck with me.

My late teens saw me develop my tastes even further. I listened to a lot of Top 40 music in high school, and enjoyed ELO; Asia; Supertramp; Earth, Wind, and Fire; Steely Dan; Donna Summer; the Scorpions, and Blondie. They evolved even further after I moved out of my parents house, as I discovered musicians like Prince; Warren Zevon; the Talking Heads; They Might Be Giants, and Billy Idol, and rediscovered some classics, like the Doors and Creedence Clearwater Revival. I also began branching out, searching for new musical experiences, discovering in turn the Pogues, the Gypsy Kings, Laurie Anderson, Elvis Costello, and Ofra Haza.

It’s become common wisdom that the music of your teens and 20s becomes your default – what you prefer to listen to for the rest of your life, with your tastes beginning to stagnate at about that time. I’m not sure I believe that; since my 20s, I’ve discovered a lot of music I like that seems fairly different from the music of my 20s: Missy Elliot; the Soup Dragons; Rob Zombie; Jonathan Coulton; Queen Latifah; Adele; Blue Man Group; Loreena McKennit, and Lady Gaga. Thanks to T’s love affair with Middle Eastern Dance, I’ve been exposed to a lot of musical influences from around the Mediterranean, including groups like Oojami, Amr Diab, and dozens of bands and singers largely unknown outside of the Middle East. I’ve become intrigued by the seeming influx of Mongolian Metal bands over the last five to tens years, and have been slowly finding my way through those.

All of this is a long, involved way of saying that there’s a practically infinite variety of music out there, and I’ve been surprised – often – at a new discovery that tickles my ears and gets my feet moving. Don’t settle for being stuck with a single era’s music when you can easily – more than ever before – sample music from nearly ALL eras of human history. Explore, experiment, and be open to finding joy and delight in new things once in a while.

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