I was given a two-month free subscription to Sirius XM Radio after having some work done on my car. So I’ve taken advantage since the beginning of October listening to commercial-free radio and trying out the music, comedy, and sports stations the company has to offer. It’s been enlightening, to say the least.
Where I spend the most time is at the lower range of numbers. Sirius offers ‘50s on 5, ‘60s on 6, ‘70s on 7, ‘80s on 8, and ‘90s on 9. While most of my time is spent on Channel 8, I sometimes like to flip up and down the dial until I land on a song I really want to hear.
I’ve noticed a lot about the styles of music as I’ve explored. Each decade has, for the most part, a really distinctive sound. Sometimes, when you listen to a song from, say, 1969 or 1971, you can hear the beginning of the new sound or the remains of the old or maybe even a crossover, a fusion, of the two sounds.
The 1950s was really the beginning of rock and roll. Elvis Presley singing “Hound Dog” or Chuck Berry with “Johnny B. Goode” started a revolution of music that is still felt six decades later. You also had doo-wop, where the background vocals often used random syllables to harmonize with the lead. Groups like the Del-Vikings excelled in this regard.
The 1960s might have been the most important decade of music. Rock and roll continued on unabated with stars like Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys coming to the fore. But the British Invasion, led by the Beatles, took center stage. The group from Liverpool might very well have been the most influential group in rock and roll, the reverberations from their style still felt today, as well as those from the Rolling Stones and the Who.
When you reach the 1970s, you think mostly of disco. Songs like “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge, “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, and “Super Freak” by Rick James are among disco songs that are still recognized today. Because disco really got going in the latter half of the decade, you can still really hear its influence in the first few years of the 1980s.
But the ‘70s also had what was known as soft rock, or pop rock. Groups like Chicago, the Eagles, and the Doobie Brothers brought some new stylistic sounds to the listening public, and it stuck. So much of the music that is currently on the radio is in thanks to those groups and many others who moved away from the faster-moving songs that had been so popular.
But that faster type of song remained popular in the ‘70s. Led Zepplin, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, and Aerosmith really changed the landscape, giving an edge to rock to counteract the sound of disco. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Queen, probably my favorite band of all time. Their music in the ‘70s was game-changing. “Bohemian Rhapsody” might be one of the most famous and most redone songs in history. I think my iPod has at least five different renditions of it!
Hip-hop music started in the ‘70s, but really gained momentum in the 1980s. Run DMC, LL Cool J, and DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince are among the most recognizable groups which paved the way for today’s rap music.
Rock music moved more toward hard rock and heavy metal. Guns ‘n’ Roses, Metallica, and Megadeath became huge and featured band members with long hair and a heavy bass beat that moved at a breakneck pace. And hair was the name of the game in the ‘80s. Hair bands like Poison, Van Halen, and Def Leppard were huge, both in talent and hair spray bills.
The 1980s produced two of the most influential musicians of all time. Madonna was a tremendous voice who pushed the boundaries of music and the ideas she presented. She led the way for strong women to take to the stage and really be heard and revered. Michael Jackson was also one of the greatest musicians to ever write a song. Say what you like about him as a person, but his music is second to none.
The 1990s were an interesting decade for me. I started in high school, went through college, and ended the decade a few years into my teaching career, along with getting married. That’s a lot of change in life, and the music seemed to change at just as rapid a rate.
Alternative rock with bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Goo Goo Dolls, and the Smashing Pumpkins changed music tremendously. Part of that culture was the grunge set. Groups like Nirvana and Pearl Jam adjusted people’s expectations of what was considered popular.
You also had adult contemporary music from such great voices as Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Jewel was there along with Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette. Plus, you had pop music from the Spice Girls, Britney Spears, and Ace of Base.
Moving up and down the channels, I’ve rediscovered some great music. Maybe through reading, you’re moved to re-listen to some favorite music of your own from the past. It’s been fun having Sirius XM Radio for a couple months. I likely won’t continue to subscribe to it because I enjoy books on CD and listening to Power 96 or KFAN. But that music will remain important, and maybe someday I’ll get Sirius about it again!
Word of the Week: This week’s word is rhigosis, which is a sensation of cold, as in, “She felt some rhigosis as she left work until she got her car warmed up, while listening to good music.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!