Your music is immoral! …..Really???

your music is immoral

by Kenneth Justice

~Are you a teenager? Were you ever a teenager before? Did your parents ever complain about the music you listened to?

Music is a language, art, and tool that overlaps all cultures. People separated by language, who are unable to communicate to each other, are able to both understand each other’s music…..

Yet, music is so often misunderstood; right?

When the Beatles came to the U.S. boatloads of parents were outraged by the four ‘long haired’ hippies they declared as producing bad music for their children. Elvis Presley was so threatened by the Beatles that he petitioned the U.S. Government trying to prevent the Beatles from being granted visas!

The 1960’s were filled with tremendous amounts of tension between older generations and the young, and at the center of the conflict was music.

In the 1980’s bell-bottoms were gone but musicians like Ozzy Osbourne , Alice in Chains, Madonna, and others helped continue the tradition of conflict between parents and the music their children played.

Back when I was young the music we listened to was good! It was moral! It was clean!”

Ever hear that before?

Every new generation of adults tends to take the popular music of their youth and hold it up as some type of strange standard that should be required for future generations.

Yet, the reality of the situation is that the music of our parents generation was likely frowned upon by our grandparents……right?

Isn’t that what subjective moral standards are…….subjective? Shouldn’t we be careful not to hurl stones at the music others listen to because we all have different tastes?

Music is one of my favorite topics. I have very clear likes and dislikes, but the older I get I try to keep my ‘dislikes’ private. I try not to ‘rain on everyone else’s parade’. If you enjoy listening to Kid Rock I don’t want to be the one to tell you that his music is annoying and not very intelligent…….I’ll let you figure that out on your own (please note the sarcasm in that last sentence)

So why is there so much tension between parents and their children on the subject of music? I suspect there are a number of reasons. Parents tend to believe;

—) music can affect their children’s behavior

—) certain types of music can encourage promiscuity among their children

—) certain types of music can encourage drug and alcohol use among their children

—) certain types of music can lead their children to rebellious behavior

Aren’t those the types of things we’ve heard parents say for the last fifty years? Aren’t those the types of things that parents in the 1960’s complained about when the Beatles and other British Invasion bands came to the U.S.?

So is it true; does music affect our behavior negatively or positively?

One particular church I attended for a period of time was a little overly obsessed with classical music (not that I hate classical music). The majority of leading families in the church listened to classical music almost exclusively and while that is fine……I wondered if it somehow disconnected those families from the culture.

Don’t we need to listen to the music of our culture to stay in touch with our culture?

If I only spoke Latin and refused to speak the languages of my culture (English & Spanish) then wouldn’t that completely disconnect and isolate me from the people around me?

That is how I feel about music; it is a language, it is an art, and it is a way to connect with people around us. When we only listen to one kind of genre I believe it puts us at risk of being disconnected from large segments of society.

Isn’t that why so many parents are disconnected from the their children; they don’t know anything about the music of the youth?

I love music. I love old bands and I love a lot of newer bands and musicians. I try to stay current with all sorts of genres but I also like to stay connected to the past with the musicians that I love.

I’m not obsessed with being relevant……but I don’t want to be irrelevant.

As a writer I believe it is essential to understand the culture you are living in; if you are disconnected from the Arts of your culture than as a writer you risk ceasing to be able to connect with your reader.

Yet at the same time we don’t want to become so focused on the here-and-now that we lose our connection with the past…………Balance is important.

Isn’t that the problem with so many of our young people today; they are imbalanced. They don’t have a balanced perspective on the here-and-now in relation to the past… relation to history.

I love music.

In the summer when I’m happy I listen to Bob Marley or the Beach Boys

In the Autumn when the weather is cooler I listen to Nirvana and Vivaldi

In the Winter when its cold and dreary I listen to NIN and Offspring

In the Spring I love to crank up 80’s and 90’s pop……..

I love all sorts of music. I listen to different music when I’m in different moods. And I don’t ever want to be that parent who says to their child, “your music is awful! You can’t listen to that! You can only listen to the music I like!”

No, I don’t ever want to be like that………I think I’ll have another cup of coffee now,


Categories: Culture & Society

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30 replies

  1. LOL Like a dog chasing its tail. Every generation has it’s own beat. Deal with it. In 50 years today’s music will be on the Golden Oldies list. The more you demonize it the more exciting and popular the music will be. I you LIKE your kid’s music, they will hate it, so if you want them to stop listening to it start having church socials for the adults and dance to it.

  2. I’ll listen to just about anything, our kids like some of our music, but more the old stuff, like the 70s and 80s. I find it funny thinking of our music being the golden oldies in a few more years. Really?! Not quite the 50s is it.
    My kids’ music is fine, I do put a limit on it when we go driving. Any more than an hour and I’m goings nuts. But they don’t like my music either, so it’s all good.

  3. I think you are right about missing balance in life, But isn’t that a bit the narrow minded view of the parents and society who loves putting everything in a cubical.and label everything.
    Music you listen is a reflection of your emotion at that time.

  4. My children enjoy music from my generation and I enjoy music from theirs. If they don’t like something of mine, I try not to force it on them. Likewise, I ask them to not force me to listen to theirs. But what we do look at the lyrics for songs. We discuss them and why they are good or bad, and choose to listen to something because the music’s good and ignore the lyrics or not. They still listen to things that I don’t enjoy much. But they don’t listen to the stuff that is socially reprehensible, either. For me, that’s a win.

  5. Interesting how you listen to different types of music for each season. I listen to all kinds of music as well. I think in song a lot. My only problem with some of the music these days is that it seems like its promoting not being a good father to young boys, and that females are seen as sex objects and that’s it also some music promotes the word “nigga” but is considered hate language if a white person even sings the lyrics to the song. However, i do still listen to this type of music, I just make it known to my teenagers that they need to choose their morality and be conscious of the words before they go singing them out loud because other people who hear them will assume that that’s what you believe.

    • I agree, there is definitely a lot of songs and artists that don’t necessarily promote positive father images or reduce women to sex objects…..that type of music tells us a lot about our culture doesn’t it.

  6. I believe God gave us free will for a reason, to determine the right from the wrong & good from the bad. Music, like so many other things is neither good nor bad…it is the associations we make of it and the actions we take. We are a step above the apes for a reason, as we can reason through things; unfortunately, many are oblivious to that and label everything bad. I once attended a church where the head pastor forbade dancing & alcohol and refused to marry my nephew because there was to be dancing & alcohol at his reception. Apparently his ex-wife ran off with the drummer…I suspect there was more to it but what can you do. People assign meaning to things that have no meaning and choose to misinterpret their meaning.

  7. Andy and I went to a Christian Rock concert in Missoula. It was excessively loud! We were there to see a group that had been popular when we were teenagers and several others were there as well. It was VERY interesting. We needed earplugs because that would have put the music at an acceptable level for our ears and we had to pull up the lyrics of several of the bands on our smartphones to be able to know what they were singing. However, there were several parents there with their kids, earplugs firmly in place, standing swaying and jumping right along with their kids. I was amazed and encouraged. I want to be that kind of parent. I want to listen to and understand the music my children listen to because that will connect me to them. I am only 6 years older than my brother but gender and just that little bit of time separated our music preferences but I still listened to his music with him because I wanted to know what it was that appealed to him. I got it! I really did. My mom could never understand. She couldn’t see why we would subject ourselves to that “noise.” BECAUSE there was something in it that we could relate to. I don’t know that when my babies are grown up enough to make their own choices, that I will be as open. Time changes people. But I hope I am. I hope I can sit down and listen to what they are listening to and understand what they are hearing and what is appealing to them. – the wifey

    • The last concert I went to I totally forgot ear plugs too and I was in the front row, standing right at the stage. My ears were ringing for days afterwards but I had a blast.

      I enjoyed your comment, I think you and your husband have a great approach toward the subject.

  8. Kenneth – this by far is absolutely one of my favorite posts ever! I’m such a music fiend I can hardly stand it. I’m going to try and say what I need to as briefly as possible but I’m sure it’ll turn into some crazy rant. I think it particularly funny you mention Elvis because I’m quite certain that he was banned from the Ed Sullivan Show and when filmed on other shows or movies, they stopped showing him from the waist down and they called him Elvis the Pelvis lol. My upbringing didn’t really include my parents not liking my music but then again it was probably because I liked their music and they allowed me space to develop my own tastes. My dad loved different types of rock (including classic which I adore) and my mom raised me on country music. I had my older sister to teach me about R&B/hip-hop and other pop music and I began to like my own stuff. As a child I hardly listened to “kid” music. I was all about “real” music from day one and IF I should ever have my own kids, I intend to do the same. My dad and I will still spend an hour or more talking about some new song or artist we’ve come across and both our tastes have changed some but we still like the same stuff in addition to the new. Growth with music… metaphor perhaps? I completely agree with the importance of culture in our lives and I feel that limited genres is also reflective of how closed minded people can be to things that are different. I have very few limitations on the music I listen to, except I can’t stand Barry Manilow or other elevator music (aka modern jazz if you will), what I call “scary” heavy metal (Marilyn Manson, Slipnot, etc.) and maybe a few others but otherwise I’m also at least willing to try something once. I can’t understand or certainly can’t relate to people who only like one, two or even only three genres of music. That seems so bland to me. They are missing out on such wonderful music. I can’t understand that. I am a bit out of the loop these days on the most current bands as I don’t listen to regular radio out here and I don’t have Sirius (I plan to do so again in the near future). Music is of the utmost importance to me. It helps with stress and it’s a comfort for me when I can’t talk to my friends. It always has the words I can’t find. It’s my world. I love this movie called “Dogfight” with River Phoenix and Lilli Taylor (old but cute movie). He’s an enlisted Marine and she’s basically a hippie (an opposites attract flick) and she tells him about how music can change the world – I couldn’t agree more. You’re so right when people connect to music – imagine the positive messages that can be sent/received if we only are willing to listen. πŸ™‚

    • ha ha yea i had read that about Elvis and was going to include it but you know me; i always try to keep my posts limited to a certain number of words so I had to omit it πŸ™‚

      As to Barry Manilow…..yea, um, uh….is that music? I mean yuck! but no offense towards those people who like that kind of thing

    • lol yeah im not sure it is either but some do like it. i try not to offend others for the music they like but sometimes it’s hard. πŸ™‚ i could have rambled longer in my response too but was trying to limit it some.

    • Barry Manilow. I am not a fan, but really he did write and perform some fine songs. I think most people just read that he is the no.1 example for what is called elevator music and just use his name.
      Give him a listen. At least his hits.

  9. I listen to a huge range of music. My girls tend to listen to the same stuff their mother does. This means they listen to quite a bit of country.

    My youngest daughter is a bit different though. She doesn’t like anything I like unless they have done it on Glee.

    • Ha, ha… that reminds me of my father-in-law. He’s not terribly fond of anything unless it’s played by a symphony orchestra or sung by a boy’s choir. Music as recorded by the Beatles= he doesn’t like it. Music by the Beatles as performed by symphony orchestra= he likes it.

  10. music engenders emotion . . . therefore I believe that music that creates anger and violence and . . . (of course it does) Let’s be real here.

    Now as far as understanding and all that, well that IS subjective . . . I enjoy music where the song has more than one phrase repeated over and over . . . but what do I know? I lived in the sixties and was full bore counter culture, but wasn’t the music better then? I am prejudiced because I sure do think so. . . .

    I’m not going to judge today’s music, but Dylan said it best when he sang “the times they are achangin” . . . and on the music scene they sure did . . . for the worse! You whippersnappers make me glad I’m half deaf . . .

    • I agree, music does connect to our emotions…..but it doesn’t mean we have to allow music to influence our behavior negatively right?

      You see, some parents try to brand music as “wrong to listen to” because they create the equation;

      Listen to X Music = Negative Behavior

      And I would suggest to those parents that while music can play a role in an individual’s life, to reduce the problem to merely ‘the music’ is too reductionist πŸ™‚

    • I think music tends to ‘follow’ rather than ‘lead’ . . . as well as the rest of the arts, it kinda shows where we are at in our psychological mindset. . . . .

      If I had a true gripe it would be in the mechanics end of the equation . . .

      it takes time and practice to put on paper, and then apply to instrument, the melody that began in the head. . . and the learning curve wants to be avoided at all costs. Good music has been replaced by big money to the detriment of all of us.

  11. Excellent post. On the one hand music does influence the way we think, via lyrics. On the other hand so do books, so do movies and television, so do current events, so do the art we see commercial or pure. We can’t escape being influenced; the only thing we can do is be discerning, critical, thoughtful and do it with our children. What do the lyrics of “Blurred Lines” mean? Do you agree with what they say? Why or why not? Listen critically and then listening will be a influence toward maturity.
    Music is singled out because it is powerful, emotionally. But video is more powerful still. This is the video age like the 60’s were the music age.
    Try listening to Iron and Wine, or Low Anthem, or Cat Power, or Andrew Bird, or Exit Interview (my son). There is more good music out there than there ever has been before. And classical isn’t over yet either; Arvo Part is really good.

  12. Music is subjective – people cant leave it at that.
    And overzealous parents love to blame pop culture but not themselves – ALWAYS the case.
    Plus people love to whine and think their tastes are superior to others.

  13. I am a classically trained musician and I was a formal student of music for a really long time. Some of these attitudes are even worse in music schooling. Things tend to stop after the Late Romantic period for most students, and you rather have to be a percussionist and/or composition major to get much exposure to John Cage and post-modern musical genres. I had a blogging friend (we were commenting on ’60s electronic music) that in her day, getting too deeply into Debussy or any other composer outside the high classical model (Classical, Romantic, and Late Romantic eras) could get you into trouble with the music department.

    This attitude frustrated me to no end, because it was difficult to get honest training to be a working musician. I didn’t figure jazz education to be much better– although students are trained to improvise, the jazz school world seems to have its own elitists. I would also guess this is true even where showtunes are emphasized over jazz.

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