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Backstage with Ron Onesti: The Future of “OUR” Music

Backstage with The Arcada Theatre’s Ron Onesti

The Future of “OUR” Music

2024?  Are you kidding me?  Are we already almost done with 25% of the next century?  The “Time flies” thing is out of control right now!  When I think of the last twenty-plus years, it is truly incredible what we all have endured.

The political scene has been the most tumultuous in history.  International military conflicts have been plentiful, economic rollercoasters have been more active than any at Great America on a July day, and environmental changes are almost too abundant to document.

Musically, it has been a bit confusing, and somewhat uneventful.  I mean in the sense styles or genres of music over the past two decades or so.

From minuets during the time of George Washington, to Stephen Foster, “The Father of American Music” ballads popular during the Lincoln Presidency, from songs of freedom and sorrow in the South during the time of the Civil War to the music popularized by Thomas Edison in 1877 with his invention of the phonograph, music always had a categorized “style”.

As society began to splinter off into subcultures depending on geography, hedonistic activity and age groups, styles of music became more defined.  It also changed more regularly.  The Twentieth Century really became more musically complex, and offered so much more as far as styles were concerned.

I am not necessarily referring to the “science” of music: Modernism, Impressionism, Post-Romanticism, Neoclassicism, Expressionism (thank God for Wikipedia).  I am referring more to the way each decade was defined by its musical style.

The “Jazz Age” of the “Roaring Twenties” and 1930s, the “Swing” era of the 1940s Big Bands, the “Do Wop” of the 1950s, the “Psychedelic” 1960s, the “Classic Rock” and Funk, Soul and R&B of the 1970s, the “80s Pop” and “Glam Bands” of the 1980s, the “Teen Pop” and “Grunge” of the 1990s, and the “Contemporary R&B” of the 2000s all defined their respective decades, with varying amounts of overlap.

Since then, “Teen Pop” of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, Hip Hop and Rap has continued to drive the music charts.  More recently, Electronic Dance Music DJs have been the next wave of music celebs to don the cover of “Rolling Stone” magazine.

But as the “Pop Style” has been a dominant force in recent years, it has infiltrated all levels of music.  Classic R&B like Motown, Al Green and Marvin Gaye is today about Hip Hop sampling.  Classic Country is more pop-rock and even classical music has been bitten by the “Pop” bug as Andrea Bocelli is recording with Ed Sheeran.

Don’t get me wrong, I have an appreciation for all these styles of music.  As long as there are masses who support any one genre, I am also a fan.  The argument that the music of today being created on computers using fabricated sounds and auto-tuned vocals is “not music”, is a common one.  However, as long as the finished product “…combines sounds in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony and expression of emotion,” it can be argued that it IS music.

As each decade comes and goes, it doesn’t seem it will have the staying power of those from the past.  Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”, Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood”, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”, Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”, The Temptation’s “My Girl”, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, KISS’s “Rock and Roll All Night”, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” and other classics of the past 100 years surely stand the test of time.

I will give credence to artists like Eminem and Bruno Mars who have created music that has helped to define their respective eras.  Much of that music I believe has staying power.

But in fifty years, what other classics will be playing on the chip that will surely be implanted in people’s heads?  Ariana Grande deep hits?  Taylor Swift relationship anthems? I look at today’s Top 40 lists and aside from Taylor, Miley Cyrus and The Jonas Brothers, I don’t recognize anybody.  And their place in music history may not have the same impact as Black Sabbath or RUSH.

So that is why the music of the Twentieth Century I believe will be the music of our civilization to come.  “We Are The Champions” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” will still be popular in the year 3000.  The music of Pink Floyd, The Who, Journey and Parliament will never go away.

The Arcada and Des Plaines Theatres are committed to keeping that music alive, presenting the original bands, or current incarnations and the best of nationally touring tribute acts.  Mere words cannot adequately describe the appreciation I have for all of you for supporting us and live music in general.  It has not only kept us in business and one hundred-year-old music houses alive, but more importantly, your support has helped to keep the live music that we grew up with going strong and there for future generations.

If you keep coming, we will keep putting on the shows that take you away from the challenges of life, even if it is only for a couple of hours.  And as for the music of the next seventy-five years, I do not have a good feeling about “new” stuff.  My prediction? Zeppelin will continue to Rock, Aerosmith will continue to Roll, and “Loop” t-shirts will be as popular in 2077 as they were in 1977.