It’s a familiar refrain, spoken usually as a parody of a crotchety older person bemoaning the demise of Western civilization: “These kids today and their rock and roll, and their Beatle haircuts…” For added effect, some even throw in, “…and their hula hoops and fax machines!”
It’s quite possible that even fans of Johann Sebastian Bach looked at Ludwig van Beethoven as some kind of rebellious young upstart who was killing music. After all, musical torches rarely get passed between generations when the one on the receiving end is still in their teens. We’ve seen kids like Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham) forego their parents music in favor of “what’s hot”, even if those parents are in the process of becoming music legends themselves.
So what do we do? Do we throw up our hands in despair?
In my own case, I know that my eight year-old daughter has a thing for James Taylor and Frank Sinatra. That’s because when she was a baby, I tossed aside the traditional lullabies, and when it was my turn to rock her back to sleep in the middle of the night, I’d sing her songs like Sweet Baby James and The Way You Look Tonight. The James Taylor classic was so much a part of her day-to-day life that by the age of three, we were blown away when a friend picked up a guitar to start playing the song, and my daughter sang every word from memory. In fact, at least once a month she still asks me to sing her the songs she went to sleep with as a baby.
Once I had her hooked on Sweet Baby James, it was easy to move her over to Shower The People and Something In The Way She Moves. It’s the same with Sinatra. She must be one of the only kids in her school with Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift and Ol’ Blue Eyes on her iPod.
I’m not going to suggest there’s anything wrong with Raffi, but why do we believe as parents that when everything else is about stimulating the parts of their brain responsible for creativity, that music somehow needs to be more, well, mellow? John Flansburgh is half of the duo called They Might Be Giants; they’re becoming cult heroes to young kids through songs like the theme to Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Higglytown Heroes. In an interview with MLive Detroit, Flansburgh said, “The whole live children’s music belief is that it has to be watered down. It’s watered down to give the parents a break and keep the kids sedated.” Instead, he argues, “Kids love energy, exciting, crazy … it sparks their imagination. That’s where it’s at for kids.”
Parents went crazy over something called “The Mozart Effect” back in the early 90s, because of a bogus scientific claim that listening to Mozart made kids smarter. Although it was thoroughly debunked a couple of years later, people went for it in droves – even Georgia Governor Zell Miller wanted to make room in the budget to give every baby born in Georgia a Mozart CD.
Instead, what we know now is that like all other things, kids respond to not only a variety of sounds and styles, but to variety itself. Don’t be surprised if they like the new Bon Jovi song and also love Justin Bieber and Psy. The more different kinds of music they hear around the house (or in the car, or wherever), the more they’re likely to latch on to your music as they mature. And while you’re busy lamenting how times have changed, remember how you went through your own musical phases: That German band, Trio, after all, got to number three on the charts in Canada with that ridiculous Da Da Da song in 1982. And don’t even get me started on A Flock of Seagulls.