Learning to love and appreciate musical classics

The year: 1998. The place: the safest four-walled enclosure in the world, a warm haven where I can reel in my reveries (aka my bedroom). The news of the day: The double-disc special edition Beatles 1962-66 album and its buoyantly euphoric melodies. I play “Love Me Do” on repeat relentlessly. I memorize every word from every song, unaware that I am burning into my brain the legacy of one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

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Fast forward to 2003. I’m sprawled out on my bed, taking in the sounds of Deep Purple and The Stones that emanate from my CD player. If I’m not soaking up the contents of my brother’s mixed tapes, I’m listening to his fingers forming the first couple notes of Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.”

Five years later and the teenager in me has already made a beeline for the mother of all angsty bands: The Smiths. I contemplate life and love while wallowing in Morissey’s eerie vocals and disturbing lyrics.

Now in 2013, I jam to the smooth, elegant sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, the sass of Nancy Sinatra and the swing and rhythm of Ray Charles.

No doubt you’ve heard of every one of these artists. Their music is everywhere: in commercials and on the radio. Their images are even printed on T-shirts and sold at Target. They are not only musical artists but pop culture icons. But how well do we know their music? We know who Jimi Hendrix is, but when was the last time we really delved into his ripping guitar solos?

Attempting to know every music artist that ever existed is both exhausting and impossible. However, the sheer volume of work should not deter us from wanting to learn.

By knowing the classics, you’ll be able to recognize the influence of time-honored artists on your favorite contemporary musicians; not to mention that you’ll learn to appreciate good music and determine what matches your tastes. And building up your familiarity with the music of times past, be it 70s rock, 20s swing, or 90s punk is really quite simple.

Your family will be the best source in your quest for the oldies. Even if your parents never really cared for music as kids, they no doubt have certain songs they remember from the good ‘ole days. Trust me, they will be all too willing to share.

Even consider grandparents and older siblings, depending on which era you are interested in. Who knows, maybe they have old records, tapes or CDs that they’d be willing to pass on to you. These would be great resources for fueling your search, as well as awesome vintage collection pieces.

If you’d rather approach your exploration single-handedly, iTunes and Spotify will be your friends. All it takes is searching an artist and then listening to the musicians listed under the column entitled “Similar Artists”.

To get a basic idea of their style, it helps to listen to their top songs. Once you find an artist you really like, you can dig deeper into their work and really get it acquainted with it.