My husband once said (mainly jokingly) that there had been no good rock/popular music made since the seventies. While he was at the time being humorous, he was also a big classic rock fan. In matter of fact, we both had eclectic tastes, and our tastes were often different. On our second date, we went to a showing of the movie Under the Volcano, at my husband's suggestion. Let's just say that we had different perspectives. Still, I was glad I had gone, and that was the case fairly often in our marriage. The end result was both wider exposure and knowledge.
Being people who had very strong and varietal tastes in music (as well as books, film and art) we passed that on to our children. My daughter is a huge Motown fan who can recognize Marvin Gaye within three notes, and who regularly asks new friends "What do you MEAN you have never seen Guys and Dolls?". My son has still not forgiven me for going to see Eric Clapton in Denver when he was away at school, and can be heard humming the music from Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. When he was a child he would sit and watch Fantasia, his favorite part being the witches on Bald Mountain.
Because we shared, very casually with our kids, the things we liked from a young age, they each took something away-and are open to suggestions as to what they might enjoy. They also look to mom to be the expert of all things of the era, but that's another story. My son normally reads only non fiction (although he has recently plowed through Game of Thrones and the Hunger Games series). When he was a freshman in high school we took a bus trip and cruise trip through Scandinavia on a tour, with him being the only person not an adult or a young child. At one point in the trip there was a longer period of driving and boredom set in. I offered him the use of my recently finished John Sanford Prey Series book. Normally he would have refused on principle. The difference was the subtext of this particular mystery. The protagonists wife had given him $100 to use on downloaded music and throughout the book he and his coworkers listed and re listed the top rock songs of all time. That part alone was enough to keep him involved (and in the end, there is not a Beatles song in the mix).
The thing is, this was not a two way street. For every cultural thing we passed on to our children, they turned around and shared with us. Some times unwillingly and sometimes unconsciously. Part of being an involved parent (especially when yours is the home everyone comes to)is being aware. This means that instead of sending rap and hip hop into the bedroom (or forbidding it in the house), I encouraged my kids to listen to it in front of me-even when it made me uncomfortable. After all, I'm sure listening to the Rolling Stones sing about Satisfaction made my very liberal, aware parents uncomfortable. When we went on a road trip, everyone got a chance to play or hear their own music (avoiding the head phone, head banging issue) The end result? Some of their popular music I hated, some of it I enjoyed. Either way, it kept me current and introduced me to new things-both of which are important in my life.
When my now thirty something daughter was young, I was the mom willing to take the kids to the mall. My husband stayed home with my toddler, giving them "man" time. Rather than leave and come back, I stayed, walking the mall or going to a movie. Sometimes it was my own movie. Just as often however, it was a movie the kids were seeing-something I might not have chosen to see on my own, with young actors I may or may not have known (sitting of course, far, far away). One night we went to see a move called Dangerous Minds with Michelle Pfeiffer. While the movie was okay, my children still remind me about walking around the house for weeks later singing out loud the lines that begin "While I walk through the valley of the shadow of death", from the movie theme. Yes, I like a song called Gangstas Paradise (a song, by the way, about surviving inner city gangs).
Even though my music choices still tend towards be rock, blues and classical music, I deliberately seek out chances to hear new and current artists (as well as actors, movies and the like). Although the comedy factor of Saturday Night Live has in general sunk into the abyss, I often have it on as background if only so that I can see the monologues and the musical acts-who are often new. The end result is that I've found a new appreciation for groups like the Black Keys, The Killers, all grown up Justin Timberlake, and yes, even Eminem on occasion.
More important than the appreciation though, is that I feel more comfortable being fully "up with" what is going on and what is popular, that I can relate, and that when people talk about such things I can be part of that discussion. I don't have to shake my head when a certain kind of song appears in radio, television or film-or look blank when a certain artist or kind of music is mentioned. I'm still set in my ways musically and artistically to a certain extent, but I hope I'll always be open to the different, no matter the age.
My favorite song today? Mary Blige and her version of "One". Pretty traditional after all.