To Be A Rock And Not To Roll: Classic Rock Teaches Us To Chill TF Out

Some of you had parents who let you control the radio in the car when you were kids…and it shows.

My parents, on the other hand, absolutely refused to listen to the music that was popular when I was growing up. No KISS FM, Radio Disney, or whatever the hell millennials listened to back in the 90s and early 2000s. Sure, I listened to popular music when I was alone in my room (Avril Lavigne, anyone?), but when I was in the car with my parents, it was non-stop classic rock. I remember family road trips listening to Jim Croce, Bruce Springsteen, and Billy Joel. Not to brag or anything, but I also knew all of the words to Don McLean’s American Pie at age 6! There was even a point in time where my mom would play Fleetwood Mac’s Rihannon on repeat. Now I find that song a tad nauseating due to overexposure (sorry, mom). I guess it all makes sense given that I was born and raised right outside of the heart of rock n’ roll – Cleveland, Ohio. All in all, classic rock has influenced my life in an extremely positive way, and as an adult, I am a huge fan.

Now, let’s get dark and weird. Something special about many classic rock songs is that there are elements of mortality and nihilism that are hard to ignore if you actually listen to the lyrics. Simply put, these songs scream the idea that life is meaningless, and we’re all going to die, so stop worrying about petty sh*t.

Let me share some of my favorite examples:

(Disclaimer: these are my interpretations. Feel free to come up with your own.)

Vienna, Billy Joel

This is a great song for anyone who suffers from imposter syndrome or the general feeling of not accomplishing enough. In this song, I believe Vienna represents death (yup, I said it), and Billy Joel is reminding us to slow down and not worry about making it the finish line, because it’s simply inevitable. In other words, don’t worry about growing up too quickly. Fun fact: Vienna is a song on Billy Joel’s album, The Stranger, which shares the same title as the existentialist, Albert Camus’ novel. Cool, right? (This is why I don’t engage in small talk…)

Carry on My Wayward Son, Kansas

This song is pretty straight forward when it comes to bringing up the whole mortality thing. I mean cmon’ “There’ll be peace when you are done” and “Surely heaven waits for you” what do those lines mean to you? 

Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

“Nothing really matters” = nihilism! You’re welcome! 

Time, Pink Floyd

This is a great song to listen to on your birthday (haha, just kidding…maybe). Have you ever felt that the years go by faster as you get older? Well, that’s what this song is about… and mortality. Don’t believe me? Let me highlight the line “The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older, shorter of breath and one day closer to death.”

Don’t Fear The Reaper, Blue Oyster Cult

This is another song that is pretty straight forward and has an awesome guitar solo. Death is just as much a part of life as birth, and this song does not hide this uncomfortable truth. I’m surprised this song was so popular…

Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin

Last, but certainly not least, given that this is a long-ass song. Stairway to heaven deserves its own blog post (which I’ll get to one of these days…maybe). It consists of multiple spiritual and philosophical messages, one of them relating to “buying the stairway to heaven.” I simply cannot cover it all in one paragraph. The song references a lady who lives life according to a plan — thinking that she can buy her way into heaven. This plan is the thing that gives life meaning and comfort for the lady. The nihilistic message here is that having such a plan is a tactic to cover up the idea that life has no set meaning. We create the meaning ourselves through our choices.

I mentioned earlier that classic rock has influenced my life in a very positive way. It has taught me:

“There are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road your on.” -Led Zeppelin

“You can go your own way.” – Fleetwood Mac

 “Let it be.” -The Beatles

“You can’t always get what you want.” – The Rolling Stones

And much, much more. Because the meaning of life is self-constructed, I have this insane amount of freedom to decide what is meaningful for me. I don’t need to beat myself up for being late for an appointment. I don’t need to worry about having a bad hair day or if my outfit matches perfectly. Sure, I guess it might help to be practical, but in the end, does it really matter? No, so let’s all listen to classic rock, chill TF out, and enjoy — because life is short.

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