Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Who I Don't Like

This post started out as an intro to a section of my website, on the Virtual Reality page, called Noah's Recommended Listening. However, it turned out to be stuff I don't recommend. So, I'm posting it here instead:

My musical tastes are pretty diverse. It took a long time for that to happen. In Jr. High and High School, I rarely listened to what anybody else was listening to. I never got into Led Zepplin or Three Dog Night, for instance.

I did like Paul Simon, James Taylor, Peter, Paul and Mary and Doc Watson. Still do. And I’ve always liked the Beatles.

In high school I was in the Heights A Capella Choir, an award winning musical organization doing some very complicated music from many different genres. We even did Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. And I did some musical theater. So I was exposed to lots of different kinds of music. I just never got into anything that was very popular at the time. It took me until after I graduated college, around 1982, before I started to appreciate the Rolling Stones.

I didn't like to listen to much music. Mostly, I wrote songs. But my writing suffered. Not only because I was a teenager, and few teens have the maturity to write a really great song (though some do). But, because I wrote in a vacuum. I was unwilling to listen to or appreciate most pop music.

I love a lot of music now. But first…

I will disclose, here and now, naked and in public (sorry for that mental image), for all to know and pass judgment, my three least favorite singer/songwriters. Now, I realize I’m in the minority here and, in some cases, my admissions about this have been known to cause riots. But music is so subjective. Everyone has a different sensibility. As it should be. This is what makes music and art and The Arts and Culture and pop culture what it is. No one can appeal to everybody. But the trick is, depending on how one defines “success,” to appeal to as many people as possible.

And before I tell who my three least favorite singer/songwriters are, let me say this: I can defend my statements. I can present a cogent argument about forced lyrics or weak melodies or useless rhymes or sentimentality or any of the other things I don’t like about their music. But I won’t do it here. If anybody wishes to engage me in a discussion, feel free to email me. But neither of us will change the other’s mind. Because art is not about an intellectual debate. It’s about gut reactions.

So, it may surprise you to learn, if you know what kind of music I like and write, that my least favorite singer/songwriter of all time is Harry Chapin. I can hear your sharp intake of breath and feel your metaphorical daggers coming through the computer monitor. But I don’t like his songs. Never have. I appreciate Chapin as a humanitarian. I admire what he did with the World Hunger Foundation and how he used his fame and money for that cause. I know all that stuff. It’s his music I can’t stomach. I’ll sum it up in one word: trite.

Coming in at number two for most disliked singer/songwriter – call out the riot police and take shelter in your homes – is Bruce. Yes, that Bruce. The, so called, Boss. I know he’s a terrific performer. And I like his politics. I just don’t buy all this “America’s Poet” stuff, as if he’s the modern day Woody Guthrie or Carl Sandburg. His lyrics don’t turn me on. It’s not his gravely voice (I love Tom Waits) or any other aspect of his production or performance. It’s his lyrics. Sorry. I know I’ve shocked and offended most of you by now. But, I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. I want to like him. I want to be in the majority. I want to feel what everybody else feels. I even bought “Greetings From Asbury Park” in New Jersey and drove through the state listening to it. How much more trying could I have done? Still didn’t like it. I saw him up close at a John Kerry Rally in Cleveland. Loved what he said. Liked how he sounded, just him and his guitar. Still didn’t like the song. I loved him when I saw him perform at a Woody Guthrie tribute and he sang “Going For a Ride in the Car, Car.” That was my best Springsteen moment.

My number three least liked singer/songwriter is Neil Diamond. And I’ll make no apologies for this one. His stuff is just trash. Although I like some of the stuff he wrote for the Monkeys. But, “Song sung blue/Every garden grows one?” Gimme a break! Or, “Money talks/But it don’t sing and it don’t dance and it don’t walk?” It makes me gag. Don’t even get me started on “Crunchy Granola Suite.” OK. Get me started. I just picked up the lyrics on his website and must now share them with you:

I got a song been on my mind
And the tune can be sung, and the words all rhyme
Deede-ee deet deet deet deet deet deet deedle dee dee

Though it don't say much, and it won't offend
If you sang it at school, they're liable to send you home
Never knowin' what you're showin'
Think you're growin' your own tea
Good lordy

Let me hear that, get me near that
Crunchy granola suite
Drop your shrink, and stop your drinkin'
Crunchy granola's neat
Sing it out
Da da da da
Da da da da da
Dee dee dee dum

One or two digestible songs like “Solitary Man” or “Sweet Caroline” does not make up for that and the rest of his sappy, crappy inanity.

I guess I have to throw Dave Mathews into the mix. As with Springsteen, I’ve tried. Bought the CDs, listened, read lyrics, liner notes, etc. Couldn’t get into it.

Well, that’s enough of who I don’t like. For my Recommended Listening picks go to and click on the Virtual Reality page, or just click here.

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