Of all the topics I routinely feature on this blog, music doesn't figure too prominently. It's not that I don't like listening to music or commenting on the music I enjoy the most. It's just that there is so damn much music floating around out there and I know I listen to the stuff that's already been processed by the radio stations. Plus, I only listen to music on the radio after 6:30 p.m. and on the weekends (NPR the rest of the time).
Besides, music fandom requires a level of devotion I can rarely muster up for total strangers. A friend of mine has been a dedicated Cure fan since the age of 12 and has seen them in concert more times than I've probably visited my own parents in the last 5 years. Other people feel so strongly about the poisonous commercialization of pop music that they only listen to the purest unsigned artists that you'll never hear on the radio. I simply lack that kind of patience and am way too busy with other projects - like this blog.
So why write today about music? Because 50 years ago today, the Big Bopper, Richie Valens and Buddy Holly died in a horrific plane crash while on tour. Don McLean memorialized the event in the infamous ballad American Pie, as a mournful elegy for a time long since passed.
Though I spent many a campfire belting out the song, I'd have to argue that music may have changed profoundly since the 1950s, but it's hardly dead. Sure, we have to battle the evil forces of American Idol winners and Jonas Brothers fans, but we have much to be happy about too.
Music listeners today have the most incredible consumer choice when it comes to their individual preferences. From iTunes to XM to MySpace to independent radio stations (like the excellent RXP in the TriState area), we no longer need big record companies to tell us what to listen to. We can advertise, produce and distribute our own tunes, and often for free.
Sure the onus is on each of us to decide what determines quality music and what is simply manufactured crap, but it makes for some fantastically random playlists. Plus with the economy failing and people having less money to spend on things like CDs or concerts, artists and listeners will get even more creative (or desperate) about promotion and dissemination.
Life and times in the music world may not be as simple as they were in 1959 when the plane went down, but they certainly are interesting. And for the record and proof of some great tunes, my favorite band right now is Gogol Bordello and my favorite song is "You are the Best Thing" by Ray LaMontagne.