There are many ways in this world for us to express our personalities. From the clothes we wear, the books we read, or the careers we pursue, we form ourselves as people. Music – a universal language – also is a great way to help us develop our identities. Some people like classical strings, others the synthesized pop of today’s hit songs. Still others enjoy timeless classics from the ’30s to the ’80s, which are considered “old-fashioned” by those who are not fans. However, there are many teens in Western New York who are head over heels for vintage tunes.
Before rock really took off, the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s were filled with fluid vocalists and talented musicians such as Frankie Avalon, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich (the latter two highly successful drummers).
Kayla May, a freshman at Sacred Heart Academy, remembers growing up with this kind of music.
“My grandma always had CDs in her car, and I started listening to them and I thought they were interesting because you could actually understand what they were saying compared to rap,” Kayla said.
The 1960s is considered to be the most revolutionary time period for music. While vocalists such as Bobby Vinton, Frankie Valli and Paul Anka were still popular, it was artists like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Monkees, Roy Orbison, the Doors and the Rolling Stones who really helped pave the way for rock ’n’ roll.
Kenedie Cutler, a freshman at Niagara County Community College, said it’s the vocals in this music that come through to her.
“It was a time where you couldn’t use technological aid to alter your voice. The realness is what captivates me,” Kenedie said. “My favorite part of the old music is being almost taken back to times I never got the chance to live in. The most prominent generation, when I think of older music, was the 1960s. My relatives speak of it so fondly, and I think the music out of that generation is very representative of how things were.”
Tracy Clark, a freshman at Buffalo Seminary, said today’s pop music can be repetitive and unoriginal.
“You can kind of predict where the music is going to go,” Tracy said. “Older music was a lot more creative; it just had a certain authenticity to it that you can’t find now.
“Many of my peers don’t have the same taste as I do in music, and because I love such older music, I can get discriminated for it,” she added. “It’s not as if I only listen to older music, I like to listen to pop as well, so please don’t judge me just because I am madly in love with the Beatles, all right?”
During the next decade, music grew and thrived even more. Artists such as David Bowie, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Queen began to introduce new sounds, while bands such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Who still produced the classic guitar solos made popular in the ’60s.
Sara Breene, a freshman at Kenmore West High School, compared vintage music to modern music.
“It’s more original and personal since they wrote their own lyrics and instrumentation. And I dig the sweet guitar riffs,” Sara said.
Other bands from the ’60s include the Grateful Dead, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Fleetwood Mac and Yes.
“In middle school people thought my music taste was weird, but as soon as you get to high school people start to expand their music tastes,” said Bridgit Hager, a sophomore at Nichols School whose father, John, is the program director at 97 Rock. “You meet a lot more kids who like Pink Floyd.”
Ben Galkiewicz, a freshman at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, was introduced to classic rock through the Buffalo radio station.
“My dad exposed me to 97 Rock when I was about 8, and I’ve been hooked ever since,” Ben said. “Older music has heart and soul. It’s not someone saying the same thing a thousand times with a beat in the background.”
When it comes to classic rock in Western New York, John Piccillo knows his stuff. Known as “JP” on air, Piccillo is one of the DJs at 97 Rock.
“Rock and roll has always been about ‘attitude.’ Generation to generation teen attitude is pretty much the same, rock and roll speaks to that attitude,” he said about teenagers’ attraction to vintage music. “The music we play, the ‘classics’, have stood the test of time. Great songs are great songs no matter the era.”
You may wonder where a love of classic tunes can take a teenager these days. Nathan Gambino is a student at Niagara County Community College where he is studying audio recording and production. He also is the drummer and manager of the band Sacklunch (visit www.Sacklunchband.Bandcamp.com).
“Being a part of the industry now, I know how the music business works,” Nathan said. “You have producers at a record label who write your song and you then perform them. The song is already programmed. Back in the day there was no technology like we have now. You couldn’t just go back and cut something out and start over again. Being a musician demanded talent and perfection.”
So if you’re a teen who is into vintage music, you are someone involved in a growing movement of young people discovering old music, and even if a lot of your friends don’t have the same taste in music, there are plenty of teens in the area who do. In addition, many adults will appreciate your love of the classic tunes from their younger days. It’s amazing what music can do to bring people together.
Allison Rapp is a freshman at Kenmore West High School.