neil peart - rush - 2011 - photo by Harmony Gerber - Shutterstock - feature

MY WEEK – MY MUSIC – The Old & The New

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AWOPBAMBOOM, Volume 102 – Music News and Notes for Fellow Travelers

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Hello and thanks for tuning in to your weekly installment of AWOP-BAM-AND-BOOM. This week we’ll remember Neil Peart of Rush and songwriter David Olney, check out the line-up lists for upcoming music festivals, and set some (opinionated) musical new year’s resolutions.

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WE REMEMBER

Neil Peart of Canadian rock band Rush passed away after a long battle with brain cancer on January 7 at the age of 67. (Don’t worry, the following sentences are only a mere rhetorical stunt.) But, what does Neil Peart’s life and legacy have to do with me? He was an icon of my parents’ generation, not mine; why should I care? (Take a deep breath, foaming and unsettled Rush fans. Here it comes.) Neil Peart was a master lyricist and drummer, both of which are dying arts in the contemporary music world; most of what’s popular contains soulless percussion scientifically manufactured from synthesizers and repetitive vapid one-liners that may sound cool and catchy, but once given real actual thought, lose their short sweetness. Neil Peart was not only one of the greatest drummers of all time and a brewing lyrical thunderstorm of poetic lightning, he was a rebel in and to the industry/establishment of rebellion: rock and roll, itself.

Check out this drum solo Peart performed on David Letterman in 2011. Look at his face; he is expressionless because of the insane amount of focus and engagement that level of drumming—a level not known to any mere mortal human—takes. He was nothing less than an ascetic perfectionist for percussion. The solo is practically a meditation. One of the reasons Peart was one of the greatest drummers of all time was because he never stopped being a student, in the 90s he began taking lessons with Freddie Gruber, an eminent drum instructor.

And his lyrics! “Tom Sawyer” is an anthem for the working man, for an individual who will not submit his or her authenticity to the systematic oppression of industry and government. The following line from “Dreamline” captures the theme of countless songs about our contemporary party culture by young artists today in one line, “Learning that we’re only immortal for a limited time.” And his chilling allusion to Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” in “The Spirit of Radio,” “For the words of the profits/Were written on the studio wall/Concert hall/And echoes with the sounds, of salesmen, of salesmen, of salesmen.”

And, above all, he was an individual. He was not the archetypal rock star: rollicking in sex, drugs, narcissism, and overtly antagonistic edginess. Neil Peart was known as bookish, quiet, and elusive to the spotlight. In a 2015 interview with RollingStone, Peart said, ““It’s about being your own hero, I set out to never betray the values that 16-year-old had, to never sell out, to never bow to the man. A compromise is what I can never accept.” For more on Neil Peart, check out these articles from NPR and RollingStone.

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WE ALSO REMEMBER

Acclaimed American songwriter David Olney died in the middle of a performance on Saturday. To read a moving remembrance by NewsWhistle contributor Alan Kaufman, click here.

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MUSIC FESTIVAL SEASON IS COMING

The line-ups for Coachella, Bonnaroo, and the Governor’s Ball have been released! The headliners for Coachella are Brockhampton, Rage Against the Machine, and Travis Scott. Notable headliners for Bonnaroo include Tool, Tame Impala, and Lizzo. And as for Gov Ball: Vampire Weekend, Portugal. The Man, and John Bellion. You can find the full line-up for Coachella, Bonnaroo, and The Governor’s Ball on their official websites.

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A TREND TO LEAVE BEHIND

The following rant was inflamed by the release of Halsey’s new song, “You Should be Sad.” Here’s the music video. But before you watch it, it is very much so NSFW (Not Safe For Work), so if you’re at your desk job or even got kids, resist for your own good. And even if you’re home alone, you should look over your shoulder every once in a while, because this music video is more graphic than a comic book.

The song is one of three, alongside “Without Me” and “Graveyard,” that call out her ex-boyfriend, rapper G-Eazy, for cheating on her. The releases of the songs have spanned more than a year, and this theme seems to be her main creative resource. My problem is not with Halsey, or with her music. But the three themes are repeated, dead horses that are beaten into overdone-and-cliché oblivion by many contemporary artists today.

The three themes are:

1. The aforementioned, “I’ve fallen out of love with you. How could you do this to me?! I hate you! Look, I’m totally over you now! Look!”

2. “I’m so so so in love. Oh my god, I’m so in love: I’m crying pink sugar, rainbows, and optimistic gumdrops that sing to me—about how great my life is now that I’m with you—out of my eyeballs.”

3: “We’re young forever so let’s party like we’re gonna die tomorrow. No, seriously, we’re immortal, let’s get real messed up tonight because it’s the only night of our lives.”

Post Malone, Ariana Grande, Avicii, Lizzo, Dua Lipa; the list of contemporary repeat offenders is long, so long. I’m not even debating whether or not any particular song, or even this genre of music is good or bad! In all honesty, these themes have inspired and continue to inspire moving and emotive music. My opinion is that we—or at least, very much so me—are oversaturated with it. Obviously, love and youth are two vital facets of the human experience and should be explored in the arts. And again, I don’t have any problem with any particular piece of music that any artist has produced, some of it’s really great and speaks to the heart of my generation. My point is that love and youth are not the only facets of the human experience and to hear about them and only them in our music not only diminishes them, but reflects a vapid and limited culture, and creates a vapid and limited picture of the human experience of my generation. It’s 2020, perfect vision, let’s see many different themes explored in music this year.

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ABOUT GUY JAMES

Guy James is the pen name of Guy DeMarco, a young writer on the rise. He can be reached with music ideas and story suggestions at guy@newswhistle.com.

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PHOTO CREDIT

Lead-In Photo (Neil Peart) Courtesy of Harmony Gerber / Shutterstock.com – “UNIVERSAL CITY, CA – JUNE 22: Neil Peart of the rock band Rush hits the stage for part of their Time Machine Tour at the Gibson Amphitheater in Universal City, CA on June 22, 2011.”