Here’s the premise, as laid out by NPR’s Robin Wilson:
Every generation has its own soundtrack. The Silent Generation (people born in the ’20s and ’30s) had big band and swing. Baby Boomers (born in the ’40s and ’50s) had rock and soul. Generation X (born in the ’60s and ’70s) had grunge and hip-hop. There’s plenty of overlap, of course, and these are incredibly broad distinctions that don’t take a lot of other genres into consideration. But it’s probably fair to say that these were the most defining moments in music for each generation.
That’s arguable. One of the commenters on the NPR site, apparently a millennial, writes, “I don’t think that there is a definable sound yet for this generation, in fact I think that the lack thereof is in itself the sound of this generation.”
But even during the days of mass marketing, were generations really defined by some monolithic musical genre? Sure, our choices were more limited, and radio (and later video) was the perfect conduit for feeding “mainstream” to the teen market. But when I think about the soundtrack for my own generation — coming of age in the ’70s — we did have some variety. There was the boring, navel-gazing prog rock (Yes, Kansas, Styx, Frampton Comes Alive); the worst of Eric Clapton; dreary disco; country rock (the Eagles); southern rock (Skynyrd); a few glimmers of hope on the pop music scene (Fleetwood Mac, the Steve Miller Band’s Fly Like an Eagle); a bit of experimental concept work (Dark Side of the Moon); the Boss; and of course, just when things in the ’70s music scene looked hopeless, along came punk and new wave to save us (Get the Knack not withstanding).
So, what am I saying? Just that the ’60s weren’t defined purely by Woodstock and the hippies, the ’70s by disco, the ’80s by big hair, heavy metal and hip hop, and the ’90s by grunge. We can’t pigeonhole generations by musical style. That’s been true in the past, and it’s even more true today, as audiences become more fragmented and the long tail grows longer and slimmer.
Even so, the All Songs Considered podcast ought to be interesting. I’ll keep my ears open and when it airs, I’ll let you know.