How Does Musical Taste Develop?


From Chuck Berry



Fischerspooner, as an example

How? Why?

Where does our enjoyment of certain kinds of music originate from? Some might say it depends on the music we’re exposed to as children, and that is part of it. But what about when you get older and you like certain songs that have nothing to do with the music you grew up with? A lot of kids and adults can’t stand the music their parents always listened to. Although I enjoyed most of the music my parents listened to, I could never get into Bob Dylan or Janis Joplin. A lot of people are influenced by the music their older siblings listened to, but where do the eldest kids find their music?. I can only offer my experiences, as someone who was basically an only child (I have an older sister but she lived with her father half-way across the country).

Growing up I listened to, almost constantly, to “Oldies” music: Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Temptations, Sam Cooke, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, etc. etc. etc. Think of the soundtracks to American Graffiti and The Big Chill as examples (how my dad loved Wolfman Jack). Forrest Gump as well. Baby Boomer music, pretty much, as my parents are Baby Boomers. Throw in some Frank Sinatra as well, as my mom became a fan.

I continued to listen to Oldies music well into elementary school, at an age when the kids around me had already discovered their own kind of music long ago. Except for brief periods here and there, I was not exposed to any other type of music. When my sister came to visit I don’t really remember her particularly jamming any tunes, but I was very self-absorbed and wouldn’t have noticed anyway. TV was another matter. She got me started on The Simpsons when I was in first grade when she came to visit in early 1990.

I was made fun of for my taste in music. I brought my Walkman to school one day. I didn’t have any tapes, I only listened to the Oldies music station. One of the kids wanted to hear what I was listening to, so I allowed him. It was Big Girls Don’t Cry by Frankie Valli. He promptly made fun of me (“..girls don’t cry-y-y-y-y” ha ha ha!) and that was when I started to become ashamed of my musical tastes. That part of my life really has nothing to do with this article, just to say that I quit being ashamed only well into adulthood. It’s only recently that I am comfortable with sharing my music with others, the good and the bad.

The first bit of music I heard that was outside of what I grew up with was MC Hammer’s 2 Legit 2 Quit at my best friend’s house. I was hooked and I quickly got the tape of the single and listened to it constantly, as well as getting his Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em album. This was when I was ten (1992). I started listening to the radio station she listened to (Las Vegas’s 98.5 KLUC) and started discovering other musical acts. Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album was a favorite. I started putting posters of Kris Kross on my wall. I didn’t say they were all good, only that they were different than what I grew up in early childhood.

Now I like songs in almost all music genres (except modern country and acid rock). With almost all the thousand of songs I like they all have one thing in common: they have quick beats and tempos. I don’t like slow songs. Perhaps the early influence of Oldies songs is the reason for this. Some people like songs based on the lyrics, but not me. It has to be a song you can drive fast to.

In a way I think musical tastes at the most basic level are unique to every individual. You can take two people who like rap, but I’m sure they don’t like every single song the same. Why is this? Why do tastes develop? Just one more thing for me to ponder, and maybe you too.