The Rock ‘n’ Roll Conundrum


August is a good time for summer daydreams, for exploring the odd, whimsical thought that at other times of year wouldn’t justify the time. I had just such a thought recently after reading a draft of an article being prepared by Assistant Editor Todd Hutlock on an unusual radio station-a retirement-facility-licensed 1,000-watter broadcasting Big Band sounds around the clock for people 60 years of age and older (an entertaining piece coming soon to a Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management near you!).

Todd describes the work that went into creating and sustaining WMKV in Cincinnati (no, not the TV series). The station plays Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and other big bands and pop singers to help seniors tune in to the days of their youth. It is the nation’s first FM educational public radio station to be licensed to a retirement community, in this case Cincinnati’s Maple Knoll Village. To anyone who knows the power of music to evoke warm, happy memories, the station’s appeal is obvious.

Something occurred to me, though, when reading station manager Alan Bayowski’s comments about attempting to broaden the appeal of the station by reaching out to seniors who cut their musical teeth on everything from the 1920s Jazz Age to the Pop Music era of the ’50s and early ’60s. His “youngest” listeners, he notes, are just turning 60 now.

Uh-oh. Don’t look now, but something happened when we 60-somethings started entering our teens. It was called rock ‘n’ roll. As cultural transformations go, the rock ‘n’ roll revolution occurred virtually overnight. In a little over a year, we went from “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” to “(You Ain’t Nothin’ But a) Hound Dog” as the nation’s number-one song. I remember, as a 13-year-old, attending one of the first showings of a movie called Blackboard Jungle. As soon as its theme music, “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets, blasted into the audience, people all around me jumped up, yelling and clapping to the rhythm. I remember gazing in wonderment at this.

My point is, what happens when we start entering senior communities? How will these facilities accommodate us with the “music of our youth”? Will our older fellow residents sit still for Frankie Avalon, Paul Anka, the Coasters, and “The King”? How will the owner/operators of that fast-approaching future address the great cultural divide that occurred in 1955?

As I said, an interesting summertime thought. Even more interesting: What happens when the Metallica generation hits the door? NH

To comment on the editorial, please send e-mail to peck0803@nursinghomesmagazine.com.

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