When Dad Rock Is Also Kids Rock

Melia DeJongh admits she and her father agree on some Dad Rock (photo / Kayleigh Sweeney’s Photography)
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The playlists of parents and children are often very different.  It seems to be a rite of passage for each generation of kids to roll their eyes at the song selection of their moms and dads.  But, as we approach Father's Day, some would suggest that the generational musical divide may not be as wide as you think.  

When John DeJongh gets behind the wheel, he likes to crank some tunes.  And he doesn’t mind sharing them with his kids.

"I never tried to get them to like my music," he said.  "Of course, they hear plenty of it in the car when they ride with dad." 

But, daughter Melia shakes her head at some of his musical selections.

"My dad likes AC/DC and stuff , I just don’t get it," she said.  "I can’t stand listening to AC/DC. That’s like the definition of Dad Rock for me." 

“Dad Rock” is one of the most recent terms used to define a musical generation gap that families have tried to negotiate since the birth of rock and roll in the early 1950s.

"The first time I think most people saw it was used in a review of Wilco," said Jacqueline Warwick, a professor of musicology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Warwick has studied the musical connections - and disconnects - between parents and children.

"It’s come to mean music that’s connected to nostalgia, and associated with an older generation, I guess we would now be talking about Gen-X fathers and Baby Boomers," she said.  "One of the things that happens as we enter middle age, we struggle with how to maintain our cultural authority.  A lot of us want to think of ourselves as youthful and participating in the important cultural activities.  We want to make room for our kids, but we don’t want to step aside and give them all the space."

But, Daniel Goldmark, said there’s actually a hidden musical connection between generations.  He’s director of the Center for Popular Music Studies at Case Western Reserve University.  He thinks a lot of his students get their music from their parents --- they just don’t always realize it.

"All these groups are related, ultimately," he said.  "They can say, 'I listen to Alabama Shakes or Ed Sheeran' or whoever it might be, and they think it’s something new, but of course those artists were listening to these other artists. Often, music fans don’t want to think about the fact that, 'I really love this band, but they were influenced by someone who my father loves.'" 

In fact, Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard has cited AC/DC lead singer Bon Scott as one of her influences.

Melia DeJongh admits that her and her dad’s musical tastes are largely quite similar and growing closer.

"I actually think I got him into a lot of music, like Metallica, I love Metallica, and I got him into it, too," she said.

"I like my metal and Metallica is huge for me," he said.

Music scholar Jacqueline Warwick says maybe a dad and a daughter sharing musical tastes isn’t such a far-fetched idea.  It’s an idea with deep roots.

"Earlier in the history of popular music, there were styles, like the Glenn Miller band, that could be enjoyed by multiple generations," she said.  "The popular music was what everybody danced to.  It’s really through the 50s, 60s and 70s that we start to get the sense that each generation has to have its own music.  And now, maybe Dad Rock is a way of collapsing that again."


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