John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The world didn't end in 1970

Many of you will have recognized the title of yesterday’s post, “Teach your children well,” as an allusion to the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song of that name. That song is about the most recent piece of popular music to which I can refer.

You see, in the spring of 1970, my freshman year at Michigan State, one of my roommates, Michael Hyatte, suggested that the end of the world was imminent (Kent State, Nixon, etc.), that human beings were about to be divided between the freaks and the straights, and that I had better get my act together if I didn’t want to spend eternity with Lawrence Welk and Arthur Godfrey.

So I did due diligence. I acquired and listened to some albums. I sat for much of a day in a muddy field outside Lansing listening to Jefferson Airplane and a series of other bands. It was stupefyingly dull, perhaps because I was the only person in the audience not stoned. And then the world did not come to an end, which I understood to amount to a divine mandate to be as stuffy as I liked. I have not consciously attended to popular music since.

This attitude was reinforced a year later when Patricia Nedeau, whose advice was not to be disregarded, told me, “John, you are not a denim person; you are a tweeds and woolens person.” I have been faithful to her counsel.

Dr. Johnson said, “No man is a hypocrite in his pleasures,” and I have been listening contentedly to Bach and Handel and Haydn and Mozart ever since. (With occasional indulgence in 1920s jazz recorded by Vince Giordano and His Nighthawks Orchestra.) You may prefer Jimmy Buffett or Madonna or Nine Inch Nails or New Kids on the Block or any of those other performers of whose existence I am dimly aware; I don’t begrudge you your innocent pleasures, unfathomable as they are.

For my part, a wee dram and a Haydn string quartet make life as sweet as it gets.

11 comments:

  1. Amen. My editor is always teasing me about my pop cultural ignorance, but I believe I live a happier life because of it. Think of all the allusions I miss and therefore don't waste my gray matter pondering. I never even gave teach your children well a second thought. I always thought Crosby, Stills, Nash was a car company that had gone out of business in my mother's youth.

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  2. When you decide to indulge your taste for historical jazz you may enjoy the Hot Dance site. Every month he releases some rare gems. His mailing list is well worth subscribing to.

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  3. You saw Jefferson Airplane?! That bestowed Eternal Coolness upon you. Tweed be damned.

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  4. I had the rare opportunity to see Van Halen on their recent tour (free tix from the rock critic at the paper) ... their guitarist, Eddie, put on a solo that would've done Bach proud. The guy, after years of rock 'n' roll depredations, is still one of the best guitarists who ever lived.

    What I couldn't help wondering, during his mind-boggling solo, was what in the hell all this talent was doing in a washed-up rock 'n' roll band.

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  5. But it wasn't Crosby, Stills Nash, and Young. In enjoying your freedom to use the Oxford comma you've dropped another, giving the impression that there were three guys, one of whom was named Stills Nash.

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  6. "Teach Your Children" trivia: Jerry Garcia played steel guitar on the recording. (Just in case it ever comes up, now you know.)

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  7. Don't you mean "yeah, yeah, yeah"?

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  8. The Van Halen brothers are classically trained musicians. Eddie named his son Wolfgang in honor of a certain 18th-century rock star who more than likely wore more velvet than denim or tweed.

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  9. Robert of Cross KeysMay 17, 2009 at 11:32 PM

    John, how did you end up at Michigan State? Frankly, you don't seem the type. Now granted, my view of the Michigan State type is colored by my in-laws, most of whom went to the University of Michigan.

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  10. jeez, guys. the song (according to the album label) is "Teach Your Children." no "well," although that is in the lyrics. and while the performance we're discussing is by "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young" (again, acc. to the album label), it is in fact a Graham Nash song. (We wouldn't call the bach violin concerto in d minor for 2 violins, bwv 1043, "that christian altenburger, helmut winschermann song," would we, even though they did perform it ...)

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