Things we can learn from music: 70’s and 80’s

Album cover for Led Zeppelin's album Physical Graffiti, containing the song 10 Years Gone.

The rock music of the 1970s and 1980s is often overlooked by our generation. As we are caught up in our own culture and music sensations, we don’t really revert to the music our parents used to listen to. However, a lot of our parent’s music is actually really good — and we can learn important lessons from the musicians of their day.


Cat’s in the Cradle — by Harry Chapin

“Cat’s in the Cradle” was released in 1974. The song is all about the sad aspects of the cycle of life — it is sung from the perspective of a father who watches his son grow old as the dad himself ages. In the beginning of the song, the father doesn’t have any time for his young son: “There were planes to catch and bills to pay. He learned to walk while I was away.” As the son grew into an adult and the father became an old man, their roles reversed, and the son had no time for the father — “I said, ‘I’d like to see you, if you don’t mind.’ He said, ‘I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time.’” The main theme of this song is that life comes full circle: “it occurred to me…My boy was just like me”. You should stop and take time to cherish your loved ones, because, if you don’t, there will never be a good time to do so.


10 Years Gone — by Led Zeppelin

“10 Years Gone”, an extremely gloomy, yet refreshing song, was released in 1975 on Led Zeppelin’s album, Physical Graffiti. It talks about how you can’t control life’s changes — “Blind stars of fortune, each have several rays” — but you can remember the good times and how you felt in those good times: “In the midst I think of you, and how it used to be.” No matter how far people grow apart, they will always have a special bond through their memories together. Even if ten years pass without seeing an old friend, the connection will still be there: “Holdin’ on, ten years gone.” This song puts a more positive spin on the broken relationships and constant changes that life throws our way.


Here Comes a Regular — by The Replacements

“Here Comes a Regular” was produced in 1985 on the album, Tim. “Here Comes a Regular” talks about how everyone wants to be somebody, but many people end up washed up and unoriginal: “And everybody wants to be special here…Here comes a regular.” It encourages the listener to be their own person — to take action in their life and not let it just pass by. For example, they sing, “the fool who wastes his life, God rest his guts.” The song also emphasizes how dreadful life can be when there is no passion or no meaning — when life is empty. This emptiness is reflected in the song’s most brilliant lyric, “I used to live at home, now I stay at the house.”  “Here Comes a Regular” warns people of how treacherous and meaningless life can be when one is not driven to do something or be something, how dangerous it is to be a “regular”. But it also harshly reminds the listener of how most people are, in fact, “regulars”.


Brick in the Wall (Part 2) — Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd is notorious for their oddly structured songs — “Brick in the Wall” has three parts, and part 2 was released in 1979. This song is disruptive in the best possible way — it was ahead of its time in the sense that it challenges the education system for the issues that we face today (not enough creativity and overregulation of students). It reprimanded education for its restriction and lack of creative thought — “We don’t need no thought control.” Pink Floyd also paid extreme attention to detail in their usual fashion by using improper grammar to make a point about its irrelevance by saying, “We don’t need no education.” The song also singles the teachers out for the educational injustices they are committing: “Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone!” This song is a fun and brief song, but it there is a lot of meaning and power behind the lyrics.


The Sound of Silence — Simon & Garfunkel

“The Sound of Silence” was released in 1965 by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. This song is about a loss of meaningfulness of communication in the world. The “silence” that they talk about in this song is not literal silence, but the absence of important ideas — the silence of relevant thought. For example, they sing, “And in the naked light I saw ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening.” The song also alludes to the fact that people are afraid to disturb society by sharing their own ideas that change the average way of thinking — “People writing songs that voices never share and no one dared disturb the sound of silence.” “The Sound of Silence” is not only musically brilliant, but it is also lyrically brilliant, as it captures the ignorance of our society to novel ideas.


Peace of Mind — Boston

“Peace of Mind” was originally released in 1976. It’s about how success and money is not as valuable as living a happy and peaceful life. The singer admits that he doesn’t value competition as much as everyone else seems to when he sings, “I don’t care if I get behind. People livin’ in competition, all I want is to have my peace of mind.” The song also states that the money and power doesn’t last — it’s more worth it to enjoy life while you have it. It emphasizes this through the lyrics, “Now you’re climbin’ to the top of the company ladder…there’ll come a day when it won’t matter. Come a day when you’ll be gone.” “Peace of Mind” is a song about relaxing and enjoying yourself, without getting caught up in the rat race of life.


Imagine — John Lennon

Imagine was released by John Lennon, ex member of the Beatles, in 1971. Some might say that this song is a reminiscent of a hippie-induced utopia. Even though John Lennon obviously wants to create this ideal society, he concedes that it is slightly far-fetched without everyone’s participation — “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.” However, it has some good points about how we can make a positive impact in our world, such as the elimination of international groups. This point is made when he sings, “Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for.” Sure, the idea of earth being one huge country is bizarre and unattainable, but it would solve a lot of problems in our world. He also suggests a life with no belongings when he says,  “Imagine no possessions…No need for greed or hunger. A brotherhood of man.” Once again, while leaning to a slightly socialist view of society, this would solve a lot of issues in our world. Through this song, John Lennon overexaggerates what we should do to improve our world to show us how complicated our lives are and how much easier it is to live a simpler life, and how a simpler life would lead to a more harmonious society and world.


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