In 1976, Robbie Robertson and The Band hosted their final performance after being on the road together for more than a decade. It was held on American Thanksgiving day at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. They called it “The Last Waltz.”
What the audience didn’t know was they had invited more than a dozen special guests, including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Hawkins, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Buddy Waters, Neil Diamond, and Eric Clapton. This collection of high profile guests performing in one concert was unheard of.
The 1960s and ’70s were magical times not just in social and cultural reform in North America but also a surge in popular music that took the world by surprise. Today’s radio waves are filled with popular music, too, but in no time in recent memory has it equalled anything close to what happened around 40 years ago when music was defined by the people who lived in it and saw an époque of rock and roll turn into power ballads and disco within 15 years.
Pop music of the 1990s is certainly defined now that modern artists like Owl City, Lady Gaga and Cascada have transformed what we previously knew as linear guitar strumming and love songs with a rocky edge in the ’90s. Today, there are key artists influencing the music landscape, but there just aren’t enough of them.
Gaga is a prime example. Her gutsy and at times controversial wardrobe, and ability to constantly challenge contemporary stigmas through her music is sensational. Even contemporary Green Day (together more than 20 years) challenges the pop culture fabric we so easily get caught up in and hypnotized by subliminal advertising.
These artists are healing us, slowly but surely, but they are a select bunch. And we need more of them.