By Dr. Harold A. Black
It must be the awards season. On TV, the Country Music Awards were hyped. Then we had the Oscars where the motion picture industry gives itself awards and where Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. Then we had the Grammys. I immediately realized that I was completely out of touch. I had not seen a single movie that was nominated. By the way, I never realized how many categories of “excellence” existed in the movies. I had not heard any of the country music songs or heard of the singers. That is not surprising since I don’t listen to country music. But I had not heard of any of the nominees for best song on the Grammys nor heard of any “artist” except for Kanye West – who I hadn’t realized was a musician. I listen to R&B, blues and jazz. I did recognize virtually all of the jazz nominees but interesting enough, I had never heard any of the R&B songs or their artists. I guess every R&B singer I like is dead. I had heard of half of the singers in the blues category but interestingly did not have any of them in my collection. Since I don’t listen to rap, all the “artists” and “songs” were new to me. I asked my grandchildren to recommend some of their music just to see if I would change my mind about their peculiar tastes. But listening to their stuff made me remember that part of the torture of detainees at Gitmo was to pipe in Eminem into their cells. Also recently, New Zealand dispersed Covid-19 protestors by playing Barry Manilow.
Music is a passion of mine as is reading novels – mostly science fiction, military history, mystery and historical fiction. But I don’t go to movies anymore. The last movie I went to see was Saving Private Ryan only because my other half’s father was in the first wave at Omaha Beach and she insisted that we go. Today’s movies are too violent for my tastes. They are awash with characters I don’t like and themes I don’t care for. Even the cartoons seem to be obligated to promote LGBTQ. But I am fond of film noire (The Grifters, Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction, The Moderns, Choose Me), assorted Humphrey Bogart and older film.
I like old stuff. But I do like some new stuff too. It’s just that the new stuff has to be in the tradition of the old stuff like the Marsalis brothers, Kenny Garrett, Joshua Redman and Eric Reed. No hip hop. No rap. But no country either. Just music I understand and love. Does this mean I am old? Yes, it does. When I was a teenager I listened to Monk, Miles, Mingus and Coltrane. My father thought it was just noise. He loved big band jazz and used to say that modern jazz was useless because you couldn’t dance to it. When he said that I laughed until I cried, imagining trying to dance to Monk. Yet one of my fondest memories is that the year before my dad died, he picked me up at the Atlanta airport and had Atlanta’s only classical jazz station on the radio. They were playing Coltrane’s Ballads. When we pulled into the garage, we just sat in the car listening until it finished. I said “you are listening to jazz?” He looked at me and said, “Well some of this stuff isn’t so bad.”