Lunch time break, so I thought I would write something down that has been rattling around in my head this morning. We know as a certain fact that the vast majority of popular music written is about love. We’re awash with love songs. I began to wonder why.
At a certain time in our lives (our teens and early twenties), we’re all about finding a mate and falling in love. That seems to be what we hear about in popular music, performed by people that are in that age group too, so it’s a credible message. Everybody loves a lover and so we buy into love songs to recapture that early feeling, if we are older, or because we want there to be people in love succeeding together, in our world. Full of people in love is how we subliminally want our world to be, I think. It makes us vicariously happy.
The problem comes when older rockers in their dotage still get up in their leather trousers and sing songs of teenage and early twenties love and lust (I’m looking at you, Jagger and McCartney). It’s just plain creepy, frankly. That’s why the older stars fade, even as their musical skills improve and we buy into the next crop of younger people singing about being in and out of love. At least, this is my speculative theory.
I began to wonder why we love lovers. I think there is something biological and evolutionary at work here. I think we love lovers, because they represent new life. They bring the hope of renewal, salvation, rebirth, vitality and the triumph of the human against the despairs of the world. I think we love lovers because we love life.
Furthermore, I think we’re touched by the subject at a deeply emotional level, because we really care about survival – a lot. If this wasn’t what made us tick at a deeply fundamental level, I doubt there would be such a catalogue of love songs. Every cell in our bodies is designed to survive and propagate. If the human species has a cosmic purpose at all, it is to continue.
That’s an interesting idea, don’t you think? We are hard wired to appreciate survival and the vitality of new life, because it means our species continues and propagates. We’re into love songs because we are into the survival of our species and the continual rejuvenation of our collective energy, by the arrival of new people into the world, as the older of us tire and grow weary. It’s that spark of existence and its continuation through time that excites us. I think that’s a very primal thing.
Being so concerned with life provides some new opportunities for older musicians looking for age-appropriate material. Rather than writing and singing songs about adolescent and early adult love, love gone wrong and lust, why not write and perform material in praise of life itself? Sing songs of vitality. Write about your hopes for your children and grandchildren. Rage against the threats to their renewal and growth. Write songs that love life and the vitality of the human species, instead of dark, foreboding blues or creepy, repugnant songs about chasing after seventeen year olds, when in your seventies.
Write about the special love that can bring two people together for a lifetime, allowing them to nurture one, two and sometimes even three younger generations. Write about the special life force that drives us all toward loving one another and toward creating, instead of destroying. There’s plenty of material for song writers, if you broaden the category of love songs to include life songs. I have a feeling they’ll do ok. I submit “Cats in the Cradle” as evidence.
Just my speculations, anyway.