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It was a global phenomenon. There was cross grafting of genre across national boundaries. The world was on move, driven by rhythms and beats of time. But what was driving rhythms and beats and people behind them? - The turmoil of time.
The sixties were a period of great upheavals. Freedom movements in Africa, liberation struggles in South America, civil rights marches in North America, labor movements in Europe, political emancipation struggles in Caribbean, - all provided impetus for rhythm change and performers were in vanguard. Using their creativity and artistry and circumstances of their time they created classics that elevated spirit. Whether it was about war or politics or love, there was an element of subtlety that gave listeners opportunity to dream. They were limited only by their imagination.
The sonorous sixties were an era redolent of a great musical renaissance. And regardless of culture or geographical location of songs, there seemed to be a common thread running through them, -- lyrics were not throwaway words. They were words that aroused your humanity and agitated your conscience. They were evergreens, destined to stand tests and rigors of time.
But that was as it should be. Good music must, regardless of culture or era, stand test of time. It should elevate mouth that sings and ear that hears. It should be a vehicle for positive change and above all appeal to higher self. Anchored on that premise, what shall we then say of nineties and present? With due respect, with exception of a few, not much except that it was an era that ushered in a gang of hollow and lackluster musicians. It was an era when clean lyrics of sixties were smeared with obscenity. There seemed to be a preoccupation among musicians on lewdness and vulgarity. This is self-evident in some of their lyrics and videos.
How did this happen? The answer is simple. Although issues-- poverty, inequality, injustice, war, death, love, etc-- that inspired and impelled revolutions of sixties are still very much alive, modern musicians took easy way, assaulting undiscriminating ears and eyes with baseness.
How have they done this? Through music videos. Whereas artists of sixties had no medium other than sound, today’s artists have added advantage of visual images. Hiding behind seductive graphics, they pass off trash and mediocre songs as hits. The artists of sixties did not have that privilege. They understood that distance between success and failure was as far as distance between ears and brain and they worked hard to reduce it. Today’s artists do not have to work that hard. There is always video for a cheap bail out.
While today’s artists may win Oscars and Grammies, it is doubtful whether many of those award winners can stand tests and rigors of time. When it comes to performing arts, time is best judge. One thing though is certain: that this truly is an era of throwaway lyrics.
Austin Akalanze is an Educator, Poet and Freelance writer and webmaster at http://www.power-profit-systems.com/pips.html He writes in from Dallas Texas.