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Heavy Meddle: Will The Soundtrack Of My Youth Embarrass Me Forever?

What if I go on loving the the same music I did at the age of 20? (alessandro/flickr)
What if I go on loving the the same music I did at the age of 20? (alessandro/flickr)
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Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions to advice@wbur.org. Right now. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.

Hugs,

Steve

Dear Steve,

I've been told that the music you listen to at age 20 is what you listen to for the rest of your life. Is this true? Is it avoidable? Do tastes stagnate? I'm turning 21 next month, so I better do some soul-searching before my tastes hit that plateau.

PHOTO

Signed,

Jukebox Zero

Dear Jukebox ,

I am sure there are some people on earth who do, in fact, listen to the same music from age 20 onward. If this were the case in my own life, I would still be listening to “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and “Walk Like an Egyptian” by the Bangles and “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range.

Or, more accurately, I would not be listening to anything at all because I would be dead by my own hand.

Kidding!

My point, Juke, is not to slag those songs, or any songs, really. Because my own feeling is that all songs are holy, that music is the one thing human beings have gotten right, amid all we have gotten wrong. Music exists to allow us to reach feelings that would otherwise be inaccessible to us.

And though there is some part of me that is deeply ashamed of having been a devout fan of, for instance, “(I Bless the Rains Down in) Africa” by Toto, there is another, much happier and more forgiving part of me that still really loves that song and loves the awkward lovesick little teenage schmuck I was when I first heard it.

That’s how it works with songs: they’re basically time machines that help us to commemorate various eras of our lives. They are places to which we can return. This is why Classic Rock is such a massively popular radio format. People are inherently nostalgic. Faced with a confusing present and an uncertain future, they look back to a burnished vision of the past. That doesn’t make them dumb or sappy. It makes them human.

Don’t let the small tinny voices of judgment taint the inherent majesty of music.

All that being said, please rest assured, Jukebox: most 20-year-olds do evolve, and their musical tastes likewise evolve, along with their fashion sense and their attitudes toward procreation. You will continue to find new songs and bands to love, and you will, very likely, eventually look upon these same songs and bands as vaguely shameful. That’s just part of the whole process.

My own advice is this: worry as little as possible about what other people think of your tunes, or about being cool. Don’t let the small tinny voices of judgment taint the inherent majesty of music.

Try to keep in mind something my hero Kurt Vonnegut said, a few months before he died. He was asked to identify the single most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. Here’s what he said:

“My Lord, that’s a tough question, because there’s so much beauty, really; it’s what keeps me going in life, is just glimpsing beauty all the time. I suppose the most beautiful thing, though you can’t see it exactly, is music.”

Exactly.

Rock on,

Steve

Okay folks, now it's your turn. Did I get it right, or muck it up? Let me know in the comments section. And please do send your own question along, the more detailed the better. Even if I don't have a helpful response, chances are someone in the comments section will. Send your dilemmas via email.

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