What we like in music is directly related to our experience, I think. Most of us don't think it through that much but our upbringing, what we were exposed to and how we reacted to that exposure count heavily in our tastes in music. It is natural that we compare things - that's a survival skill on the most basic level. But when ego rears its ugly head and we go another step and verbalize the value judgements we've reached, the results can't be good. My goodness, Gene, how preachy you are! But I'm speaking from personal experience and I wasted a lot of valuable time cutting myself off from music that I didn't think as "good."
When I was young my dad would often play big band jazz records and try to tell how great the various bands and players were. That was because he was a superb drummer and had toured with a number of bands in the late 1940s and he absolutely loved jazz. As with most kids when they reach a certain age, there was no way I was going to admit anything good about my parent's music. It was not until I reached my late teens and began listening to the wonderful blues/swing band Roomful of Blues that I began to understand what my dad was talking about. Live and learn!
Through those years I also attended the Newport Folk Festival (I've talked about that in this space before) and the music I thought was the absolute worst was what I thought of as country music. I remember walking past one of the small stages where a couple hundred people were listening to a group of very serious looking guys in cowboy hats, suits and string ties. I couldn't get away from there quickly enough. It was Bill Monroe, the legendary Father of Bluegrass. I had the same reaction to Flatt and Scruggs, and the White Family - legends all, mostly gone now. I am not a huge fan of bluegrass but I still kick myself for not stopping and listening.
Then in the mid 1970s a musician friend kept telling me about a group he had heard a few times at a place called Paul's Mall, now long gone. He gave me a copy of their record and I listened. Nah, I said, I'm not interested in hearing them. That music is just too basic and I don't hear any energy. At the time I was listening to a lot of what was called jazz fusion, which featured pyrotechnical guitar solos of great complexity. So I didn't go to Paul's Mall with my friend. The group was Bob Marley and the Wailers. I thought reggae was lame music played by stoners. When I took my first trip to the Caribbean about 15 years ago, I finally "got it." Not seeing Marley is right up there for me with not hearing Sinatra or Elvis live, although I think Marley's reach was and is much, much more significant and important than either of those two. My closed mind denied me a huge opportunity, now long gone.
That trip to the Caribbean also opened my eyes to what we now call World Music. Paul Simon introduced many people to the concept of the melding of styles with his Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints albums, which I love. Great, great stuff.
So now I don't discount much out-of-hand. Well, perhaps hip-hop. My son Matt keeps telling me I need to open my mind to this type of music but I still can't get past the violence and drug use that some of this type of music seems to glorify. But maybe I'll come around.
My point is this. You don't have to like a certain type of music to find something of value in it. That value might be a new way of approaching the guitar or lyrics that convey an honest representation of what it's like to be a member of a society that is way beyond your experience. It might be a fresh way of combining totally different styles of music. All you have to do is get past that issue of what constitutes "good music."
And if that sounds too preachy, so be it.
Peace & good music,