We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the packages our kids discard in disgust for not including the new Pokemon 3DS games is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, tips on inter-generational bonding over music.
Jake Ibey writes via Facebook: "How do you introduce new music to a parent (mid-50s) who is stuck in late-'70s rock mode?"
It's funny, the way "How do we get our kids to embrace our music instead of the stuff they like?" has a way of bleeding into "How do we get our parents to embrace our music instead of the stuff they like?" Most of us seem to come wired with the sense that our generation knows best; that those who come before us are stuck in the past, while those who follow us need to be brought up to date on what real music sounds like.
I'm not busting Jake's chops here; this notion of generational supremacy isn't exclusive to anyone in particular, nor to any generation in particular. It's just something to keep in mind as we weigh the music we love against the music others love. Your mom and dad may well be "stuck in late-'70s rock mode" because they associate that period in their lives with a time of perceived invincibility, wonder and infinite possibility — the same way you view the music you loved when the newness of your surroundings dovetailed with your ability to process it.
It's tempting to advise you to look for common ground in the form of contemporary bands who reflect the sounds, looks and values of late-'70s rock 'n' roll; those bands could then serve as gateways to more modern music you can enjoy together. But I've got a vastly better suggestion: Take turns sharing each other's music in each other's company. Go to concerts together, loan albums to each other, take car rides together in which you take turns playing songs for each other. Spend time together. Make music a mutual point of growth and bonding.
Speaking for myself, I've got a 70-year-old mother with whom I love to share music, and I've got 9- and 12-year-old kids with whom I love to share music. Looking in both generational directions, what those three people want the most from me — way more than music recommendations — is my time. (Thankfully, that happens to be exactly what I want from them.) Let shared discovery serve as an excuse to spend more time with your folks, and the new music they discover will be the least of the benefits.