Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Forever Young? In Some Ways, Yes"

An op-ed on Dylan, his fellow pop-music septuagenarians, and the developmental importance of age 14, from today's New York Times.

“Fourteen is a sort of magic age for the development of musical tastes,” says Daniel J. Levitin, a professor of psychology and the director of the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University. “Pubertal growth hormones make everything we’re experiencing, including music, seem very important. We’re just reaching a point in our cognitive development when we’re developing our own tastes. And musical tastes become a badge of identity.”

Biography seems to bear this out. When Robert Zimmerman (the future Bob Dylan) turned 14 as a freshman at Hibbing High School in Minnesota, Elvis Presley was releasing his early records, including “Mystery Train,” and Mr. Dylan discovered a way to channel his gestating creativity and ambition. “When I first heard Elvis’s voice I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for anybody, and nobody was going to be my boss,” Mr. Dylan once said. “Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.”

Mr. McCartney, the son of a big-band musician, abandoned his first instrument, the trumpet, after hearing Presley. “It was Elvis who really got me hooked on beat music,” Mr. McCartney has been quoted as saying. “When I heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ ” — which was released in 1956, when Mr. McCartney turned 14 — “I thought, this is it.”

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