Tina Turner, the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, left an indelible mark on music history. The renowned singer and performer whose revolutionary career influenced musicians from David Bowie to Beyoncé was the first woman and black artist to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and was also inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame twice – once as a duo with her ex-husband Ike Turner, and again as a solo act in 2021.
With Turner’s death following those of countless other large names in the industry, rock and roll music is losing its battle with mortality, and the musical landscape is changing. But is it changing for the worse?
Rock and roll music has always been a declaration of youthful vigour, excess and libido against the ravages of time and maturity. However, when it comes to variety, complexity and sheer musical quality, the music produced in the previous century is, without a doubt, unrivalled.
From the 1950s until the 1990s, music had a huge cultural and political impact on real-world events, providing power for positive change and unification at critical junctures in history. Songs like The Beatles’ I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1964), U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday (1983), and Band Aid’s charity record Do They Know It’s Christmas (1984) chronicled revolutionary movements, criticised injustice and encouraged hope for a brighter future.
The influence of music, particularly that of the 1980s and 1990s, connects younger generations to the past. Music from the past influenced history and continues to resonate with audiences now, and while this may be subjective, I believe that music from today serves no purpose other than financial gain.
Undeniably, it is a generational thing, similar to how our parents and grandparents thought their music was better than ours in the 1980s and 1990s. The music grown up with and learned to love will always be favoured, but I wholeheartedly believe that modern music won’t last forever and that tracks that were once popular, even as recently as two years ago, are considered dated and a thing of the past, whereas music produced by iconic legends of the previous century is still popular today.
But why isn’t rock and roll music as popular as it once was? It has grown increasingly niche as the mainstream music industry has shifted towards more pop-oriented sounds. And many young people today do not share earlier generations’ enthusiasm for rock music. Others may believe that the internet is to blame and that its influence has completely ruined musical culture.
As a result of the overpowering technological characteristics prevalent in today’s music, the quality of these songs has fallen dramatically, as practically every song is heavily influenced by, if not totally composed of, computerised elements.
It is well known that in the past, rock bands and individual rock performers were granted huge amounts of creative licence, and the finest among them used every bit of it. They wrote their own music and lyrics, crafted their own arrangements, experimented with outrageously ambitious production techniques, and oversaw the design of their own album covers, marketing campaigns, and increasingly theatrical and extravagant performance tours.
Nowadays, while the artist may still have some creative freedom, it is the label that has the last word, which means they can have control over every part of a song to the album cover and how it is promoted. Since it represents a collaborative effort, ownership of the recordings is also likely to be in the hands of the label.
The dearth of inventiveness in chart-topping music has become worse as production and recording have been increasingly concentrated in only a few styles. Music has become more stagnant, and while it is less revolutionary to the advancement of the art form, it appeals to the public and generates revenue.
The sad truth is that the days of legendary rock and roll stars are numbered. Tina Turner, like all monumental acts of creativity, was motivated by a desire to transcend her own limitations, to produce something of permanent significance, something enduring that would survive long after she was gone. She was a historic icon who left a permanent mark on the music industry that most will never be able to match.