“One Bad Apple: In Praise of Sappy 70’s Music”
In one novelist’s depiction of hell, every song is transformed into “Queen’s Greatest Hits.” Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” gradually degrades into “We Will Rock You.”
While I have no issue with Queen, I can relate to this sort of musical torture. Once I was setting a poem a friend wrote to music. I walked down the street quietly singing the song to myself “You know I always meant to tell you thank you/Thank you for Urbana, thank you for my home/Colorado Rocky Mountain higgggggh…..oh no! I’ve written a John Denver song!”
I was in my early 20’s and took a great deal of pride in what sort of music I listened to. My taste was broad: pop, show tunes, jazz, samba, even some country. What my collection lacked was any ballads from the 1970’s. During that time period my mother requested “John Denver’s Greatest Hits” for Christmas. At the CD store I was mortified that the clerk might think I was buying this for myself. The only John Denver CD it was “acceptable” to own was the Christmas album with the muppets.
Now this didn’t mean that I didn’t like John Denver. One night my friend Ben and I were driving around the countryside. Our usual favorite activity was belting out show tunes, TV theme songs, and crudely written parodies at the top of our lungs. That night as I got in the car Ben popped in a tape and didn’t say a word. The song was “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” As soon as it got to the refrain I joined in. Ben gave me a huge grin and said “That was a test. You passed!”
After I graduated from college, getting pummeled by the realities of adult life did quite a bit to lessen my pride and snobbish musical ideals. The morning of one Christmas Eve my mother and I decided to watch one of the Christmas specials together. Keep in mind, my mother was a music major. This is the woman who introduced me to opera, Sondheim, and Indonesian gamelans. That morning my mother and I opted to watch the Donny and Marie Osmond show. Not only did we both thoroughly enjoy ourselves, we both became verklempt and shed a few tears.
This I believe: there should be no guilty pleasures. I’m no longer suppressing that facet of my personality that loves sappy 70’s music. That facet is just as valid as the parts that listens to music more acceptable to my peers. I no longer let my pride interfere with a legitimate pleasure. I don’t want to miss out on any of the fascinating, paradoxical, and occasionally sappy, experiences that life has to offer.
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