Great Music Never Dies

Posted on December 13, 2013 by Robert Ringer


An acquaintance of mine recently lamented to me, somewhat forlornly, that “great music is dead.”  He opined that youthful brains have been so soiled that all they want to hear is “junk.”

Maybe I’m a hopeless optimist, but while I agree that perhaps a majority of youthful brains are soiled, I don’t for a second believe that great music is dead.  In the long run, quality has a way of triumphing.  Honesty wins out over dishonesty.  Studying wins out over cheating.  Great products win out over bad products.  Even Batman wins out over The Joker.

Now, allow me to back up for a moment and admit that I’m one of those people who tends to be in awe of those who have talents in areas where I’m totally deficient.  I can’t imagine how Steven Spielberg produces a mega-movie.  I can’t imagine how scientists know how to fly to the moon.  I can’t imagine how engineers build a maze of freeway interchanges, a bridge, or a skyscraper.

Which brings me back to music.  It’s beyond my comprehension how someone sits down and writes a great song — lyrics, music, or both.  Or how someone performs a great song in a way that sends chills up my spine.

I can’t play a musical instrument.  I can’t sing.  I can’t even whistle very well.  So, quite naturally, I’m in awe of people who are musically talented, and perhaps that’s why I love great music so much.

It’s true that whether or not music is great is in the ears of the beholder, but the precondition for me is that in order for music to be considered great, it first has to be real musicAnd the sad reality is that much of today’s music is not real music; it’s pure junk.

Junk music manifests itself in scraggly clad performers screaming unintelligible words at the top of their lungs to a backdrop of deafening sounds with no discernable melody.  It’s not that I’m offended by junk music; it’s just stupid.

It goes without saying that at the bottom of the barrel (or toilet) is rap crap (more commonly referred to as just plain “rap”), which is not even junk music.  In fact, it’s not music at all; it’s garbage.

Rap crap is a savage-like mixture of childish rhyming and foul language oriented toward sex and violence.  It mesmerizes lost souls who are in search of a way to rebel against the established norms of society.

Even though every halfway serious, intelligent, civilized adult knows full well that rap crap is total nonsense, money-worshipping entertainment moguls relentlessly feed the delusion that it’s legitimate music.  So much so that for years now they have succeeded in having it included in almost all major music-award ceremonies.  I say balderdash.

Junk music and rap crap are the progeny of the rock-and-roll of the fifties.  But, by comparison to today, those were innocent times.  Some of the early rock and roll songs were, in retrospect, actually quite cute — “Chantilly Lace,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “Peggy Sue,” to name but a few examples.  But screamers like James Brown and Little Richard laid the foundation for the era of junk music that lay ahead with such brainless junk offerings as “Long Tall Sallie, “Tutti Frutti,” and “Lucille.”

Then, as we moved into the Sixties, life became all about Viet Nam War protests, free love, dropping acid, and elevating the F-word to an exalted status.  Certitudes were out; relativism was in.  And that’s when music started to reflect a new, baser society that seemed intent on fundamentally transforming America into a cultural cesspool.

Now, I hope I haven’t depressed you, because I want to end on a happy note (pun intended).  To my delight, what I’ve observed over the past several decades is that, notwithstanding the meteoric rise of junk music, great music has stubbornly hung in there.  It simply refuses to die.

On the contrary, it seems as though more and more young artists are embracing great music, especially the old classics written by such giants as Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, and George Gershwin.

I first started thinking about this when Celine Dion burst onto the scene more than twenty years ago with Beauty and the Beast, the theme song from the movie of the same name.  It was not a one-time fluke:  She has now sold over 220 million albums of great music worldwide.

Since that time, I’ve found it quite interesting, from a sociological point of view, to watch many superstar performers build their careers on singing the classics and filling venues around the globe with people who are thirsting for great music.  Included in this ever-expanding group are such highly acclaimed performers as Andrea Bocelli, Ronan Tynan, Sarah Brightman, Josh Groban, and Susan Boyle, to name but a few.

In addition, lovers of great music should be heartened by the fact that in recent years rock superstars Neil Diamond and Rod Stewart have recorded mega-hit albums of classics from as far back as the thirties and forties.  Why in the world would they do such a thing?  Because they know that millions of music lovers still prefer to hear great music in lieu of junk music.  Best of all, I believe this trend is accelerating.

I’ll close by mentioning just two examples of exciting soon-to-be superstars who are on the leading edge of this acceleration toward great music.

The first is David Garrett, a German-born musical genius who does things with a violin that is pure magic.  He has recast a centuries-old art in a way that is nothing short of breathtaking.  If you’re still on the young side and would like to heal the damage that junk music has done to your brain, treat yourself to David Garrett for at least fifteen minutes a day.  Here’s a great starter for you:  Viva La Vida

The second example is a group called Il Volo (meaning The Flight) consisting of three young Italians — Piero Barone (age 20), Ignazio Boschetto (age 19), and Gianluca Ginoble (age 18).  They are rapidly becoming the Frank Sinatras, Mel Tormes, and Gordon MacRaes of our brave new world.  They are a breath of fresh air that is almost too good to be true.  Be my guest and enjoy Il Volo singing “’O Sole Mio” (written in 1898!):  O Sole Mio

(And while you’re at it, be sure to pick up Il Volo’s fantastic new Christmas album Buon Natale: The Christmas Album before December 25.  You’ll thank me for the tip.)

The truth always wins out in the end.  There is nothing like a beautiful melody coupled with poignant lyrics to move the soul.  Long live great music!

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

31 responses to “Great Music Never Dies”

  1. Lydia says:

    Tell your friend that there are song writers out here trying. I have written 12 songs so far and they are in the style Jimmy Buffett and Frank Sinatra. Don't give up hope. What goes around, comes around.

  2. stogiechomper says:

    Rod Stewart's five CD's of "American Songbook" classics was terrific. I never liked him as a performer until he released these great old standards. I too am fed up to the gills with the noise that now passes as "music."

  3. tim_lebsack says:

    Great artists are one-in-a-million. Almost anyone can write a novel but few are a Twain or Melville. The same might hold true for music. A century or more before today (I've been told) a much greater percentage of the population was musical. In some societies, as many as 70-80 percent of the people knew how and did play one or more instruments. Not so today. I speculate that this is due to 1) the advent of recorded music meant that the greater talent few became dominant over the parlor musician. We started to just observe(listen) instead of to create music. 2) Public school music programs inadvertently cause kids to quit playing their instrument, quit singing and quit creating music the moment they are allowed to step away from the public school. For some unknown reason, music programs in government schools drive kids away from creating music.

  4. Pat says:

    You and I are on the same page, definitely. And anybody who likes Susan Boyle is definitely a soul brother. I prefer classical music, but I do appreciate some of what you have mentioned. I did feel that in the 50's when rock music started, it would be serious destruction of the musical scene, and in retrospect, I think I was right.

  5. Jim Herst says:

    Just listen to Berlin, Gershwin, Porter, Kern, Rodgers, Hart and those of that generation. Hear how their words and music can make you soar as you imagine when hearing the messages they delivered. Think about, 'You're the purple light of a summer night in Spain.' or "Why it's almost like being in love.' Add: 'Orchids in cellophane, couldn't compare to you.' Imagine, 'Dancing in the dark,' or how you feel when "You're not near the girl you love.'
    I could go on. There's one great book, its title: "Reading Lyrics." In it are more than a thousand lyrics to give anyone a lift of spirit and well being as one reads how genius provided beauty and musical meaning. The best music and words together are One Singular Sensation. Read it, listen to it, you'll see I'm right!

  6. Logan says:

    II Volo: Wow! Terrific. And I couldn't agree more about the state of most contemporary "music" we hear today.

  7. Crap music is audio violence.

  8. Paradox says:

    How can you neglect to mention Diana Krall?

    • Btorina says:

      Dian's is fabuoius. We have her album when she performed on Rio..a pure classic of beautiful and incredible talent and fabulous city in the backgrounds must see

  9. Tex says:

    It tickles me to think that 40-50 years from now, there will be old men and women with wrinkled tattoos all over their shriveled bodies reminiscing to Rap-Crap. Too bad I'll be long-gone from this mortal coil to enjoy that last laugh.

  10. DrWAyne says:

    Why he be disin Rap…Sheeet!!!
    Jus cauz he can't aford a thousand dollas to see Jayz mumble negro gibberish?

  11. Richard Roll says:

    Robert, to put it mildly, your tastes in music are rather narrow, and could benefit from some selective additional exposure. I read your blog (which I love) while listening to Beethoven piana sonatas played by the great Alfred Brendel. But I also love Jimi Hendrix as a composer and musician and regard him as the Mozart of his generation. James Brown was an original, irrefutable genius (hardly just a screamer as you characterized him). Even the rap crap has some brilliant art among the commercial noisemakers. In sum, I love the American Songbook as much as you do-but come on, it’s not the only game in town as far as music!

  12. Helen says:

    Anyone for "Stardust" = "All The Things You Are" = "Always" – Will we ever hear such lyrics again???

  13. Martin says:

    As a musician, music producer and music educator, this is precisely the kind of narrow-minded attitude I caution my students against. Please unsubscribe me…

    • Pat says:

      You know, this is downright petty. Mr. Ringer is ENTITLED TO HIS OPINION. Not everything is equally worthy artistically, and we have a right to discernment. Unsubscribing you would be doing the rest of us a favor. You're not entitled to Political Correctness. Sorry.

  14. Shalamon says:

    I also am a Lyricist/Songwriter and find this to be petty as well as biased. Robert did not mention anything positive about people of Color in his essay. So that for me indicates this is more racially tinted and not just an essay lamenting about the loss of great music. The response of DrWayne is proof as to how this essay comes across..The truth is, what You see and hear on radio/tv/internet are the chosen few. Certain companies have created a multi billion dollar industry based around these few, controversial and sometimes extremely talented people, called 'the music business'. There is a huge difference between the people in 'the music business' and people who create music/entertainment strictly for the Love of it. Great music is out there, you just have to discover it. Truthfully, it will most likely not be found amongst the safe environments of society.

    • Pat says:

      This is pathetic! Why do so many people have to BLAME personal taste in things like music on racism??????? I have my own personal tastes. I don't like rap. Nearly all of it has destructive lyrics, including violence and exploitation of women. That's a major reason I don't like it. However, I know one person who is definitely black, who delivers in a somewhat of a rap style, whom I really enjoy listening to (though I haven't really listened to his MUSIC, just his patter), and that's Alfonzo Rachel. And before you call ME a racist, let me point out that I have a racially mixed family by MY choice. Aside from that, rap has no melody that I can discern, and no harmony. It is simply spoken. I wouldn't even classify it as music. People who have a calm spirit are more likely to like nice melodies and harmony. There are plenty of white artists whose "music" I can't stand, either. Most of them use a heavy beat, which, by the way, destroys the body over time. I once attended a concert where the volume was really not even max, and it left permanent damage in my body (not including my hearing, because I was wearing ear protectors AND putting my hands over my ears).

      I think you owe Mr. Ringer an apology for that RACIAL slur, that he's against some music for racist reasons. That is a RACIST comment. Sorry, but it is.

      Of COURSE our musical tastes are biased. That's what it means to have musical TASTE.

      It's a free country. For a little while longer, at least. He's entitled to his opinion.

    • Common Sense says:

      Shalamon –Robert Ringer has been married long-term to a Panamanian woman (black) since the 1970's I think, so your characterization of the article as racially tinted is really something in the eye of the beholder.
      The black race has been discriminated so much that many blacks think EVERYTHING adverse is racial in nature. Suddenly, the ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans when aimed at Obama, is racist.

  15. Common Sense says:

    Just watched the David Garrett video; FANTASTIC special effects.

  16. Murray Suid says:

    I come to this blog for original thinking. This particular piece is pure cliche. I remember my father talking the same way about the rise of rock n roll. Although many of the folks here might agree with Mr. Ringer, I wonder if anyone learned anything. In my view, all the article did was confirm for someone people that their taste is superior, while offering others who like a different kind of music. Maybe the article has some value. I confess, I see none.

    • Pat says:

      Most of the comments on this editorial are a real disgrace! People are entitled to their preferences, and to express their opinions. That's what liberty is all about. Perhaps most people here don't understand the nature of liberty.

      Music conveys messages. Some of the messages of the music Mr. Ringer dislikes are very destructive, even apart from whether they are pleasing or not. And not only that, but it can be shown scientifically that some music enhances health, while other music destroys or diminishes it. People have a right to prefer music that is creative, constructive, and beautiful. We live in an era when, unfortunately, people no longer care about discernment, all they care about is getting titillated. I find it most distressing. And having experienced physical damage to my body from some forms of music (which I normally avoid simply because they are destructive), I KNOW that there is an objective standard that can establish which music is truly music, and which is not.

      Obviously, people tend to think their view is superior. If they didn't, they'd change their minds. Don't let yourself be offended. You have no right to be. He isn't harming you.

      And yes, I did learn something from his comments, and also from the other comments, and sadly, one of the things I learned is that there are a lot of intolerant people out there who refuse to acknowledge true liberty to have one's own opinions about music.

  17. Viva La Vida!! Very uplifting music and video!

    My, my, my, those Italian singers seem so young to be so incredibly talented!

    I’m sure as Robert indicated, listening to this kind of music on a regular basis will improve the outcome of your day.

    I took a 30 day challenge once to listen to music that inspires me and found my productivity soared! I refuse to listen to anything with downtrodden messages or disruptive music that causes my mind to react with contempt.

    I’ve done this for so many years that Encouraging words from uplifting songs filter through to my conscious mind every morning when I awake.

    Even if I didn’t listen to music the day before I awake to this phenomenon. The residual effects are astounding!! It’s a great way to start the day.

    Great music, like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder. What encouraged me as a teen was different that what encourages me now…but I could hear the words clearly to all of it.

    Take the challenge and have some fun :-)

  18. johan berger says:

    Despite many singers and their qualities a lot of the cabaret breed(Martin, Sinatra, Crosby, Como and others) sounded alike and never broke new ground although their techniques were phenomenal, pace Sinatra who was able to hold a note for nearly a minute..
    Having grown up with Elvis – the King – I admit I had never heard such variety and BEAUTY in his songs when first they did air.. Some tried to convince him to go for the opera school, but he was in it for the money – being the phenomenon that he was! When you master blues, country, rock and roll + psalms you truly are breaking new ground.. Presley was a trailblazer and his art will be appreciated for a century after his demise – perhaps longer still!!

  19. Robby Bonter says:

    We may be seeing a renaissance in the popularity of the classical arts, thanks to their exposure on YouTube. I just love YouTube for the variety and the quality of its content. Just in the last couple years I have become vitally interested in the wonderful contemporary female violinists, Sarah Chang and Hillary Hahn being among the foremost of our day.

    Also, thanks to YouTube exposure, I have become a major afficionado of ballet, primarily due to the beauty and extraordinary talent of ballerinas like Svetlana Zakharova (check out her "Carmen"); Natalia Osipova (check out her "Coppelia"); Yulia Stepanova (check out her "The Firebird"), and many others. To watch them is to marvel at the gift they possess, but also to come into the knowledge that there is no substitute for the hard work and endless hours they rigorously discipline mind and body to achieve ascension to the heights of their chosen artistic field. The finished product we see does not begin to tell the tale of their sacrifices and discipline which bring it all about.

    Great things can come about as the result of exposure to great things. YouTube has become one of the most appreciated blessings in my life, thanks to the inspiration I derive from being able to enjoy many of the exceptionally-accomplished artists and performers of our day.

  20. garyw says:

    It's all about feeling… and the very best of the 'rap crap' can make any listener feel *exactly* the way the performer intended them to feel. I even, hesitantly, say this about the 'junk music' (although I feel more resentment than anything else with most of this). The ones that don't make absolutely anyone feel, will drop off, but remember, as Maya Angelou said, "people will never forget how you made them feel.” The music that makes people feel, are the ones that are remembered as classics. And… sometimes only time can tell.