Chuck! Chuck! It’s Marvin….your cousin, Marvin Berry! You know that new sound you’ve been looking for? Well, listen to this…
It is one of the most memorable scenes of the 1980s as Marty McFly from 1985 rocks out to the as-yet-unheard Johnny B. Goode at his future parents’ prom in 1955. The movie is still one of the best ever made but beyond that, the performance of that song helped bring together two generations that could not have been more diametrically different, mine and my parents’ generations: Baby Boomers and Generation X.
I can’t remember why, but Johnny B. Goode was one of the first rock ‘n roll songs that I knew all the words to. Maybe it was from listening to my dad’s Chuck Berry cassette constantly in his 1984 Cutlass Supreme or from watching Back to the Future over and over, giving the VHS tape a run for it’s money. My father and I have the typical relationship that many Boomers and Xers have: I dispute everything he says because I know better, But in my case, I actually do know better. Despite all that, when it came to the classic rock ‘n roll sound of Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley, to this day we can have a normal, adult conversation. Chuck Berry was able to link our generations like no one else and with his death yesterday, I’m wondering if there will ever be a link like that between my generation and my kids’ Generation Z.
When Back to the Future came out, I was 9 (turning 10 that year) and it spoke to me on many levels including the music. My oldest kid is 9 (turning 10 this year) and although she has seen and loved the movie, the same connection was not made. It made me wonder if a musical link with her generation will ever be possible. It’s hard to imagine the remake of Back to the Future in 2045 featuring Daniel Bieber texting his cousin Justin back in 2015 to check out a new video he just uploaded to YouTube with a sound he’s been searching for. I had hoped that my obsession with Bruce Springsteen would have caught on and we could have found a song to be ours but so far it’s not looking good. Unfortunately, with Generation Z it feels like music is less about finding an emotional connection than to just bopping your head and dancing (which also speaks about the current quality of music but that’s a blog for another day).
My hope is that wherever Chuck is watching the world from now, he takes satisfaction knowing he did a lot for family relationships for parts of three generations. Maybe one day when my oldest kid is re-watching Back to the Future, she will take note of that scene and start to ask questions about the music. Not likely but a man can dream.