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A young person’s guide to popular music.

It bothers me sometimes that my kids don’t seem to be as much into music as I was at their age.

I don’t think they listen to the radio all that much, nor are they in the habit of enthusing about whatever new performer they’ve discovered.

So I’ve taken matters into my own hands, in as gentle a way as possible.

I gave my older son, who is a freshman in high school, 10 digital albums for Christmas via iTunes. (He is actually the sort who might have enjoyed fetishing the CD covers. But I went with MP3s as a grudging nod toward the 21st century.)

Each album I’ve chosen represents a different genre. Each one is, if not a major masterwork, an example of the genre at or near its best.

The idea is that the lad listens to all 10, at his leisure and unpressured, with whatever degree of interest he can muster.

If something strikes a spark, he’ll know he likes blues, or country, or whatever, and he can go explore that genre at greater depth.

If absolutely nothing at all strikes a spark … well, then both he and I will know something. And I’ll at least have the satisfaction of formally trying.

(Of course this isn’t, and won’t be, my only attempt at educating the kid musically. I often tell him what I have playing on the stereo, and sometimes he shows an interest. For example, I am fairly certain a fondness for James Brown lurks beneath his placid demeanor. But I digress.)

Anyway, here are my selections for the Music Education Project. If you have thoughts, suggestions or comments, you know where to leave ’em.

ROCK/POP – The Beatles, The Beatles (We already have most of their other classic albums in digital format, and one of my goals was to purchase recordings we did not already own digitally. Plus, the White Album seemed like a good sprawling project for him to get his mind around.)

ROCK/POP – The Velvet Underground, Loaded (I thought about the Velvets as a doorway to punk, but then ended up choosing their most “commercial” album.)

BLUES – A Howlin’ Wolf compilation CD (The Essential Howlin’ Wolf, maybe?) that was as close as I could find, in terms of track listing, to a really good compilation LP I own on vinyl.

COUNTRY – Johnny Cash, Live at Folsom Prison

ACOUSTIC/TRADITIONAL JAZZ – Bill Evans, Portrait in Jazz (we’ve already got Miles’s Kind of Blue, which would ordinarily be my recommended first stop in jazz.)

ELECTRIC JAZZ/FUSION – Weather Report, Heavy Weather

RAP/HIP-HOP – Public Enemy, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (this one’s gonna take some explainin’; I look forward to his response.)

PROGRESSIVE – Yes, Close To The Edge

METAL – Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell (the lad will know Dio.)

FUNK – Parliament, Mothership Connection

My dad is probably going to chip in a classical recording or two, and I am considering one or two other genres. (He is familiar with the Ramones so I don’t know what better punk I can add to the list.)

There are no women here; I’m considering slipping in some Joni Mitchell under the guise of “singer/songwriter.” We’ll see.

And yes, the list leans toward the classic — there is no Katy Perry here. But I figure if he wanted to listen to the current stuff, he’d already be doing it.

I think he will be dutiful about exploring what’s put before him; I look forward to hearing what he thinks.


4 responses »

  1. Ella Fitzgerald, to cover the underrepresented (1) pre-Miles era of swing jazz, (2) jazz vocalist, (3) women. Preferably something where she does some scatting. There are several recordings of Ella with Louis Armstrong that are fun.

  2. Interesting experiment, it will be good to read about the outcome in 6 months time.

  3. My two younger brothers are thirteen and they aren’t really into music either! Definitely confusing and slightly frustrating. Their best friend is really into dubstep though. Not sure if you’re familiar with it, but it’s a fairly young genre, a subcategory of electronic music. This type of music is not something you can stumble upon on the radio, and more of something that you would have to hear about through friends. If you want to look more into it, I would suggest checking out Bangarang by Skrillex and Bonfire by Knife Party. I know they sound like a bunch of crazy Transformers in battle, but a lot of boys are into this style, and they are great for working out, if your son is into that. As far as exposing your son to The Beatles though, good choice!!


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