Recently we were invited to a showing of “Who Shot Rock and Roll,” an exhibition or rock and roll photography at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. We were given a tour by Gail Buckland, the curator of the exhibit and author of Who Shot Rock and Roll. Her insights and experiences with the photographers of such iconic images including these of James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel,and Crosby Stills, and Nash were fascinating and added Ms. Buckland’s personal touch to an already intensely personal experience – because what has a more evocative, emotional and universal effect than music?
The key to the music and rock photography of the 1960s, 1970s and, to some extent, the 1980s was the lack of restrictions and parameters that the artists had to consider while they were creating. Free to explore their ideas through their words and lyrics alongside photographers like Bob Gruen and Lynn Goldsmith who were unfettered by publicists, record labels, contracts and the like, the excitement practically jumped off the page or out of the speakers at us, inviting us to enter the world created by brilliant, innovative and, most of all, independent thinking artists. For those of us who are children of that era, there was nothing more thrilling than a new album from our favorite performer – running to the record store to buy the latest release, then ripping off the plastic wrap, the album cover almost as exciting as the music on the record. We would read the credits, the dedications, and of course the lyrics, deciphering the poetic musings of our idols as we listened, over and over, waiting for the melodies to become part of our subconscious so we could hum, then sing along to the songs. We wanted to feel what they felt, interpret their words in a way that would help us to connect to them.
Now, music is more than someone writing and singing. Musicians are packaged, promoted, publicized and presented to us in such a way that there are so many layers between us and them that it makes it much harder to feel connected in any profound way. Every once in a while someone will transcend the slick business and really touch us –Adele comes to mind – but most of the time, we are presented a pre-digested ideal of what an artist should be. Today there are no album covers to dissect, and albums have given way to ipod playlists, so the experience of listening, from beginning to end, to one musician’s songs seems, well, quaint.
Bloggers have become some of the least-censored cultural voice of our time, much like musicians were to the 1960s, 70s and 80s. With complete autonomy to say what we think, to interpret the world in our unique way, bloggers are free to say whatever we want. Like musicians, there are bloggers who appeal to some and not others – there are those voices that ring true for hundreds of thousands, and those that have an audience of a dozen or so. There are bloggers who write about their children, their parents, their community, their hobbies, their passions, politics, war, cooking, their likes, their dislikes…just as musicians did back when rock and roll was young – and still do, of course.
Remember the beautiful Crosby, Stills and Nash and Young song “Teach Your Children?”
How many blogs have you read that give you the same advice, but use pictures, websites, and personal anecdotes rather than music and lyrics to tell their story?
Or how about Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence”? Does it get any more poetic than this?
The sounds of silence
There are poetry blogs by the thousands on the internet. You don’t have to look too far to find them. Unedited, raw, and honest – good or bad – bloggers say what they like, how they like, when they like. The internet is the coffeehouse for a new world, the poetry slam of the future.
Executives at music companies need “the whole package” (American Idol, anyone?) to find an artist marketable, dictating everything from hairstyles to lyrics. On the contrary, in the world of bloggers, anyone can say anything, and that’s what makes it exciting. Like the early rock and rollers, bloggers are inventive, awful, exciting, fabulous and fresh. All you need to do is find the ones that speak to you – like Crosby, Stills and Nash, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel and so many others spoke to me back in the 1970s – and still do.