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Oldies Weren’t All That Goody

Dear Editor:

A number of people thanked us for remembering Jimmy Roselli on the 10th anniversary of his death. A number of them mentioned that today’s music promotes hatred and violence. They told us that the “oldies but goodies” contained lyrics that encouraged love, peace, and harmony. That assertion is really painting a very broad picture of contemporary music. Love, romance, and relationships are the predominant themes in a considerable number of today’s ballads.

The rhythm and blues sound from the doo-wop era certainly fits a popular generalization of the way music used to be — or, perhaps, the way music ought to be. Without doubt, some of the lyrics featured in today’s popular music contain controversial verses. Yet, contentious themes or “disturbing” lyrics have been — and remain — a part of modern music.

In the 1950s, Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin and others sang about a gangster, “Mack the Knife,” and how “scarlet billows start to spread” when “Mac” was back in town. In 1969, the Rolling Stones did not use poetic innuendo to disguise violent topics. Instead, they painted a much darker picture of humanity with unsettling lyrics such as “You knifed me in my dirty filthy basement” (“Let It Bleed”) and “I’ll stick my knife right down your throat” (“Midnight Rambler”).

Music is a form of expression. For better or worse, it serves as a barometer that gauges those ethical, moral, and social issues impacting society.

John Di Genio and Albert J. Cupo

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