Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ice Cream & Bob Dylan

Last week, we had some beautiful weather in Chicago, and fortunately I was off work to enjoy it. One afternoon, I felt a sudden hankering for some ice cream, so I walked over to the local ice cream parlor. When I got there I ordered my milk shake and sat down to enjoy it. Behind me in a separate booth were a father and mother with their two sons. The parents were probably in their mid-40s, and their two sons were seven and four, I would guess. Playing over the store's speakers was the local oldies radio station.

And then, over the radio came a beat on a snare drum, an intro on a Hammond organ, and then that famously nasal voice: Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" was playing. At that moment, I heard the father behind me ask, "Bobby, who sings this?" The older son answered: "Bob Dylan," and both his parents congratulated him, obviously impressed at and pleased with his knowledge of 1960's music.

More than impressed, though, I was puzzled that his parents wanted him to know this song and singer in particular; they didn't quiz him on any other songs or singers while I was there. Now, some have interpreted "Like a Rolling Stone" as a paean to the restlessness of the 1960s--probably because of the exultant melody--but the lyrics, addressed to a woman who has fallen on hard times, seem to be a cautionary tale about the consequences of the bohemian lifestyle. Whatever one's interpretation, though, the song's theme is definitely aimed at adolescents and young adults, not parents already settled in life, nor their children.

I think it's good to challenge children in some ways, especially musically, but can't these parents find a different way to challenge their son musically? Or, am I just overreacting?
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