Saturday, January 15, 2022

YouTube and Old Music: Where Memories and People Meet

Scott D. Parker

Do you ever get lost reading YouTube comments? No, not those. I don’t read those either. I’m talking about the other ones. The good ones. [And yeah, there is a book-related comment at the end.]

There is a fantastic YouTube channel if you enjoy old music. I’m talking stuff from the 1940s-1960s. It is curated by Jake Westbrook (that’s the name of the channel as well) and he collects songs for different moods. Last fall, I discovered him and listened not only to the “Vintage Autumn Music” but thoroughly enjoyed his Halloween playlists. One of the best, interestingly, was his Thanksgiving playlists. He’s got ones for Route 66, summer, and many others.

What I particularly enjoy is reading the comments. If you need a dose of goodness, check these out. More often than not, the commenters praise Jake for the curation, but more importantly, they praise the music. Some are from younger people who never lived when this music was on the radio or TV. They marvel at how good the music remains and lamenting modern music.

A particularly nice sub-set of these comments are from folks who have lost parents or grandparents or other family members. The commenter usually relates a memory this music evokes. One really got to me. It was of a grandchild who played these vintage songs as the grandparent was bedridden. The music calmed the older person, letting them get lost in their memories as they passed from this life into the next.

Cut to more modern music. I’m a huge fan of Frontiers Music. This is a great record label that releases new music by new artist who still like melodic rock as well as older artists who no longer have a home in the big music companies. Think Enuff Z’Nuff or LA Guns. Their hashtag is their motto: #RockAintDead.

Anyway, yesterday, the weekly email featured videos of new releases and one of them was for The Alan Parsons Project’s (with a full symphony) song “Don’t Answer Me.” I LOVED that song as a teenager. It was prompted me to buy the album.

Yet, I hadn’t heard it in a long, long time. Naturally, I clicked on the link and heard a newer rendition with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Oh my was it gorgeous. But that prompted me to return to the original and it’s fantastic pulp-style video.

But it was in the comments associated with the original 1983 version that I again got lost in. Unlike Jake Westbrook’s playlists, I was among the generation who experienced this song when it was new. Now, so many of the comments relate to “I’m 21 and I just found this song and it’s so good” kind of vibe. Or, as you can imagine, ones in which younger people discovered the song in the mom’s stack of CDs or their dad recently passed away and this is the song that helps the commenter remember a recently deceased parent. I went down an Alan Parsons Project rabbit hole, but I also experienced the memories of all the commenters. It was a wonderful trip.

But then I got to thinking about books. While there is certainly not a YouTube for books, where is a site for comments like this? Where is the site where grandchildren can talk about how they read their grandfather’s favorite book as he lay on his deathbed and the grandchild realized how good an old book was?

That is a site I’d love to visit.

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