There is nothing wrong with enjoying pointless music. However, popular songs that provide social commentary are a great way of preserving history.
This afternoon, as usual, I was singing (shouting) to myself in the ute on the way home. The wind in my hair, the sun in my eyes, the fumes in my face.
And a song, which I’ve heard a thousand times before, made me cry a little. There was no Bridget Jones reference, no funereal memories, no lost loves... just Midnight Oil, singing about the Wittenoom tragedy.
And if the blue sky mining company won't come to my rescue
If the sugar refining company won't save me
Who's gonna save me?
For those of you who haven’t spent your entire lives listening to Midnight Oil, the gist of the song is thus:
CSR (the sugar refining company) operated a blue asbestos mine in Western Australia up until 1966. They had definitive evidence about the dangers of asbestos to the miners, their families, and any visitors to the town (let alone the consumers) before 1961. The concentration of dust in the air was enough that one minute’s exposure could cause lung cancer or mesothelioma. More than 20,000 people lived in Wittenoom over the years that the mine operated.
It’s a powerful song, and typical of their style. Paul Kelly is another man who writes fabulous stories and then sings them. I went to the greatest gig of my life with my dad, a friend and her sister when I saw Paul Kelly way back in 2003.
I love a lot of the current music (Lady Gaga FTW!). But I can’t name a recent song that tells a meaningful story, and I think that is why so many current singles are totally forgettable.
Am I wrong? Have you heard any good songs recently that aren’t self-obsessed (e.g. not about love, genitals, drinking, etc)? Or even some other classics?