(* Entities and characters alluded to here are entirely fictional, and are here imagined for entertainment purposes only. Any resemblance to actual events or persons alive or dead is entirely coincidental.)
In a flurry of activity, the US Taliban, once known as the Supreme Court of Our Lands, has announced another in of its nation-altering faith-based decisions. Rock and roll will no longer be tolerated.
Rock and roll has been on shaky ground ever since Colonel Parker signed Elvis back in the mid-1950’s. For context, see Baz Luhrmann’s ELVIS, currently in cinemas. Elvis shook his hips and the country went bananas.
Chuck Berry and Little Richard, back in the day, pushed those boundaries further. Would it be possible to be black and equal with Elvis, under the law, they posited?
The country’s highest courts at the time didn’t deem it the moment to weigh in on rock and roll, just yet. There was enough going on with the assassination of President Kennedy and the ever-opening chasm in our national schism called the Vietnam War.
Our courts’ decisions then, or non-decisions in fact, meant that we had to bear with Elvis through a decline in his powers until he became a pastiche of what he once was. Over time, his bellbottoms grew wider, his sideburns broader, his metal-studded belts wider and his waist – well broader again. Under Elvis’s reign, rock and roll took a tumble. And so the superstar Las Vegas show came to be.
On the other hand, Elvis’s decline opened the door for the British Invasion of American popular music. The Beatles came in, the Rolling Stones came in, Gerry and the Pacemakers came in. (Is it Pacemakers or Peacemakers – YouTube is still divided.)
The Supreme Court of our Lands hadn’t figured on that, truly.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, Detroit loomed large in popular music. We had the Supremes, the Four Tops, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Martha and the Vandellas, Gladys Knight & The Pips and Marvin Gaye.
Our top courts eyed intervention with this large presence of Motown in our popular imagination. It was tricky there for a while until, with the arrival of Lionel Richie, the danger subsided.
Lionel Richie gave the Talibanists here at home time to regroup.
And so, for decades, popular music enthusiasts in the US thought they were home scot-free. Rock and roll morphed and splintered, and gave rise to an enormous myriad of forms, southern rock, country rock, disco, house, heavy metal, soft rock, independent, hiphop, rap, electronic … well, the whole shebang of popular music that has been our life since the boy from Tupelo’s first appearance on Ed Sullivan’s influential TV music show way back when.
Turns out, in the past decades, we were lulled into thinking that rock and roll was our right.
We rocked, bopped and discoed to the Doors, Bruce Springstein, John Melenkamp, the imported Rolling Stones, David Bowie (another import,) Bon Jovi, Prince, Carlos Santana, Donna Summer, Sister Sledge, Gloria Gaynor, Michael Jackson and the Village People.
We could never have enough music in our lives, we thought. Little did we know that we were, in fact, living in a rock and roll golden age.
Ominously, unnoticed, a misogynist real-estate upstart with an oversized ego announced the creation of a presidential exploratory committee on Larry King live in October 1999. How many rock and rollers were watching Larry King in October of that year? Not many.
The real-estate upstart-in-question never dreamed of winning the presidential election. But surely, he thought, he could attract attention to his business ventures with a populist-based political message that went something along the line of Drain the Bayou. At his first attempt at the presidency, nothing. On his second try, bingo!
Whoever could have imagined that this bloated egocentric parvenu would one day mean the end of rock and roll?
Somehow, this nouveau riche wannbe convinced enough people to vote for him, and he was elected the president of the land.
Once President, he was confused, having never anticipating winning, unsure of his charge, and wide open to the influence of his followers on the far right. Under their direction, he – through another twist of fate – came to be be in a position to load the Supreme Court of Our Lands with faith-based fellow adherents. Faith-based fellow adherents is not entirely accurate as our US, democratically elected Supreme Ruler had no principles at all, as far as could be noted.
Thus, we – the United States – left the middle road behind.
And here we are.
Just this past week, we allowed our newly imposed Supreme Leader’s chosen religious leaders to rule that we would no longer have rock and roll in our lives.
I guess our moment of pseudo-freedom was good while it lasted.
All of those songs erased in an instance from YouTube is shocking. The immediate disappearance of rock and roll from our playlists is unprecedented. Now, it appears that we will be prosecuted if we attempt to cross state lines to hear the rock and roll that was once embedded in our lives. Nashville is closing its doors. L.A. will no longer be L.A. without its music industry.
Without precedent, rock and roll is now, at seemingly just a moment’s notice, gone from our lives, Our lives are so hugely different from what they were just weeks ago that it’s hard to fathom. Will we ever return to what we once were? As of this writing, that is completely unsure. Will we ever be able to hear a rock and roll song again? As of this writing, I honestly don’t know.