context, music, Nirvana

Don’t Be Too Lazy to Put Things in the Context of History

On Wednesday I wrote about Nirvana and how, to music fans today, they might seem like just another band. However, at the time they came out, they had a massive impact on the music industry. What was once considered “alternative” was suddenly mainstream, thus rendering that adjective obsolete. (To be honest, it never meant much to me anyway. It certainly wasn’t a “genre.” I mean, how can you say alternative was a genre, which means it was one particular kind of music, when you had a band like the Catherine Wheel and a musician like Bjork lumped under that moniker? They are clearly NOT the same kind of music; therefore, your “alternative” label didn’t mean a damn thing.)

However, it isn’t easy for most people to look at a phenomenon like Nirvana within the context of when they came out. Most people just look through their “today” glasses, and that is all they see.

Of course, this isn’t limited to just music. The passage of time can make the significance of anything fade. Take the movie Psycho as another example. Not many people would know this, because we’ve been bludgeoned over the head with a lot worse, but that movie was the first one to show a toilet being flushed on screen. Now in this day and age, where you have gross-out teen comedy movies that show you what is IN the toilet, that might not seem like a big deal. However, that is only if you think about watching the movie TODAY.

The material of stand-up comic Dick Gregory also suffers a reduction in significance with the passage of time. This was the first black comic to go on stage in a suit, looking handsome and speaking intelligently about the racial issues of the day. Now we think about comedians like Kevin Hart and Chris Rock, and what Mr. Gregory said doesn’t seem very controversial or groundbreaking, but again, you need to go back and look at how the rest of the world was. You might listen to his routines in 2019, but you have to imagine how they would have made you feel if you’d heard them when they first came out.

So much of the power and importance can be lost if you don’t exercise your mind a little. Imagine what the rest of the world was like back then; don’t just examine it with your modern-day view. Like the title of this blog says: “Don’t be too lazy to put things in the context of history.”

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