It’s a truism of all art that one artist influences another in a domino effect that cascades across the artistic canon. The music industry is no exception, as many of its biggest names can point to nostalgia as one of their prime means of motivation.
From the Fifties to the Sixties
One of the great lines on musical history is that African-American musicians in the 50s laid the groundwork for the hitmakers who came to define the 60s and much of popular music and culture afterward. Without the likes of Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, we would never have had the Fab Four, Rolling Stones, or so many of the bands that made up the British Invasion. Look no further than the overlap in their catalog – “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Please Mr. Postman” are all early cover songs the Beatles and the Rolling Stones did of Chuck Berry and Marvelettes songs.
Nostalgia and the Nostalgia Miners
The same way the Beatles drew upon Chuck Berry and the African-American musicians of the 50s, so too did later bands’ nostalgia for the Fab Four inform their style and sound. Countless bands have cribbed from their style and sound, while companies like Apple have used the Beatles’ “Getting Better” in their advertising campaigns. Sure, that’s a shamelessly corporate example, but that’s part of the point – companies use songs like “Getting Better” and the Beatles’ catalog as a whole because they know people will recognize and, often, be nostalgic for them. Sometimes that nostalgia mining is as much about style as sound – the late great Amy Winehouse’s iconic beehive hairdo stems from the style’s popularity with 50s women’s groups such as The Shirelles, Supremes, and aforementioned Marvelettes.
The Future of Nostalgia
So, where does that leave the future of musical nostalgia? In the same place it’s always been – looking back to the past with the goal of reinventing it for the future. The ethos of British Modernists such as T.S. Eliot was to take what was old and “Make It New.” That spirit is alive and well with the nostalgia miners in the music industry today.