This post is not about diabetes. It's also not about depression, at least that I know of.
It's not even really about music, the apparent topic: not really. It's about aging and youth, about memory and convenient forgetting, about being comfortable with who we are, even in things that don't seem to matter much at all.
Music has never been a huge part of my life. As with many of my interests, it comes and goes. I have times when I listen a great deal, and times when I don't listen at all. (My mother, were she here, might say something about my not listening to her.) But, as I imagine to be true for most people in this culture, music has been an important part of the soundtrack of my life. This was especially true when I was younger.
Born in 1960, I was a teenager in the 1970s. I started choosing my own music around 1974, but I was heavily influenced by an older sister who was really more of a 60's kid. I remember listening with her to her transistor radio when very young. My favorite at those times was "American Woman" by the Guess Who, because I thought the "UH!" in the song sounded like the singer was going to the bathroom. Great stuff for a ten-year old!
I was never very much into disco music (though I felt strangely effected when the lead singer of the Bee Gees died the other day), and I never really got very much into (or even necessarily knew about) the hard rock movement then being born. But I loved Three Dog Night, Bad Company, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Grand Funk Railroad, Queen. The first concert I attended was Queen. For a while, I was even into Alice Cooper and Kiss. Even now, if you were to give me an electric guitar and the magical ability to play it, the first thing you'd hear would be the opening chords to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" - and I imagine tens of thousands of men my age would say about the same thing.
In my twenties, my tastes expanded not only to music that was popular then but to stuff that had been around in my teens but that I hadn't known about. Led Zeppelin. The Moody Blues. Chicago. The Band. I even ventured into some "progressive rock" such as Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Blue Oyster Cult, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
I had never been concerned much about lyrics: the music I loved, I loved for how it sounded and how I felt as it washed over me. But in my early thirties I could no longer ignore the sharp divide between the lyrical content of the music I loved and the values I tried to live on a daily basis. Besides, the new music had ceased speaking to me: U2 was clearly making great music, but it wasn't MY music. Not everyone 'ages out' of popular music, but many do, and I did. So, I concentrated my musical explorations (such as they were) to further exploring the world of classical music I'd started developing a taste for in my late teens, along with some jazz. I like some early music, some of the stuff from the nationalist musics of the 19th and 20th centuries, "West Coast Jazz" (esp. Dave Brubeck and also Miles Davis in the "Kind of Blue" era), some Latin jazz, some a lot of things. I also have what is probably an unhealthy love for requiem masses - I think I own six, and most are listened to fairly regularly.
And thus, for most of two decades, I vary rarely played the music that had once made up the soundtrack to my life.
Recently, this has been changing. I've found myself tuning into "classic rock" stations from time to time, I've been playing more of the oldies that I still own, and this weekend I celebrated my fourth "diaversary" with an iTunes splurge. Once again, after a 2o-year gap, this music is once again important to me.
So what's this about? My guess is that it's middle age. I can't afford (and don't want) either the convertible or the "big nasty redhead" (as Randy Newman put it) that guys my age sometimes get to try to reclaim lost youth, but listening to Simon and Garfunkel gives me some of the same thing. But it's complicated - sure, I sometimes reminisce about years gone by as I listen to this music, but not always. I read a while back that one treatment for depression is to listen to music one used to love, so maybe there's some of that going on. Maybe I just need some back beat to stay awake!
People who spend a lot of time thinking about popular culture sometimes use the word zeitgeist ("spirit of the times") to describe what's going on culturally at a particular place and time. I tend to believe that music that gets popular - whether among the masses or just among the cognoscenti - does so in part because it plugs into the zeitgeist, connects with who people really are then and there. Thus, the music that was popular when I was young has a tie to parts of my innermost being. Though I enjoy joking on Twitter about how everybody's into music that I've never heard of, I genuinely am not putting any artist or their fans down. It's just that the bands who came along after I was fully grown aren't really speaking to me, they're speaking to other people. Had I made the choice to try, I'm confident I could have found contemporary music that spoke to me. But, instead, I found other music that spoke to me in other ways.
Will the music from my life's soundtrack continue to be important to me? I don't know. But for now, it's helping me connect to me.