I love John Lennon’s work.
Yet I think that the Lennon/Ono “bed peace” event had an element of mattering more as a water cooler event than as a formative bid for peace.
It’s a fine line, though–publicity vs. substance.
Gandhi’s Salt March mattered, and yet without publicity it would have gone nowhere.
Yet Gandhi was not a musician, but a lawyer and an activist. Lennon was an incredible pop song-writer, and Ono was a gifted artiste’. I am not sure I can judge what impact they made, and I am not willing to say that unless you’re Gandhi, just sit down.
But I can say that music matters in a culture because it matters to people–and the quest to bring authentic music to a group of people is less about “happenings” and more about finding a connection with the best part of people. This is the “high fidelity” aspiration of music which matters. But that doesn’t mean that popular music does not matter.
We would not have jazz without cakewalk and ragtime. Yet those musics seem now not to “matter”. But they did, and they do. Jazz itself no longer “matters” as it once did, but it did and it does, really.
I read up a bit recently on griots, inspired by video of the cross-cultural kora player and genius Toumani Diabate. A griot “mattered”, and served as a voice for a people and also as a key adviser to a king. This is music that “matters” culturally very much.
Yet I think we sell ourselves and our culture short when we pretend that music no longer “matters” in the sense of being fundamental to peoples’ lives. Music no longer “matters” in an Altamont or Sun Records or American Bandstand way.
I say: “good!”, even though I love so much of that music.
One 2008 death was the passing of one of the songwriters of the Turtles “So Happy Together”. Did this matter? Did the Brill Building matter? Did King/Goffin?
I don’t know. But I know lives were changed, and hearts beat faster, and dreams were fueled, and that’s not a bad thing.
For me, music matters more than ever, because we are all collectively taking it back from product into our parlors, where it will matter again.
Ragtime gave our culture a music all its own, playable in every parlor. Technology will give us back our homes, and our ability to create, and a music that matters. It just won’t be controlled by the American corporate record machine.
I want music that matters in parlors more than I want even a song I love like “So Happy Together”.