Bob Dylan listened to Elvis; Bruce Springsteen listened to Dylan. So which musicians of today will shape our music legends of tomorrow? How about Dessa?
Fourteen is a formative age, especially for people growing up in social contexts framed by pop culture. You’re in the ninth grade, confronting the tyrannies of sex and adulthood, struggling to figure out what kind of adult you’d like to be, and you turn to the cultural products most important in your day as sources of cool — the capital of young life.
Hajdu says great musicians are most influenced by those people they were listening to when they were 14. For Dylan, it was Elvis; for Springsteen it was Dylan.
So, I wondered, what are today’s 14 year olds going to remember as the most influential music of their youth?
I think the artists who are having the biggest impact today that might be felt in the next generation are those that are bringing something unique to their presentations – Florence and the Machine comes to mind immediately, as an artist that brings in a lot of musical and performance elements and creates something new (though vaguely familiar). We are in such a fragmented pop culture arena – with many artists excelling within a small circle, but few reaching the masses. I could see kids growing up and ‘borrowing’ a bit from Cee-Lo, Arcade Fire, Gaga, and James Blake at the same time, and not thinking it’s weird or contradictory.
I know I was about 15 when I was ‘radicalized’ by hearing Elvis Costello, The Clash, and the Jam, and not only did it prompt me to banish my Bob Seger records forever, but it literally changed my life – leading me closer to music, which would become my lifelong passion and career. Maybe some kid is being similarly motivated by Dessa today.
Speaking of Dessa, there’s certain to be a group of teens influenced by her work very soon. They’re the attendees of a Teen Writing Conference at the Loft Literary Center on June 8, where she will be the keynote speaker.
So which names do you think we’ll look back on as having defined today’s music?