The Importance of Music


Stephon Spiegel (12th), Reporter

Music is important to me, an essential part of my being and life. Without music, I would have no idea where I would be. From my upbringing of listening to more traditional conservative music like Frank Sinatra and the Beatles to the more off-the-wall abrasive music of such acts as Black Flag and Bad Brains.


People often downplay or undermine just HOW significant music can be to an individual, so here I am now, painting how music has been essential to my being.


Although I am a man of many words and am very expressive, I have this contradictory part of my being that often does not allow me to verbalize or even paint how I feel very often.


Music allows me to express facets of my emotions that I had never been able to word or even comprehend until I heard them. 


Some particular albums, artists, and songs have become so ingrained into my conscience that they help define me. I won’t lie and say I am perfect, even though I am an aspiring young man who has achieved a lot at the ripe age of 18 I will not say I do not or had faults.


I very much had a problem with my temper growing up. I would always resort to raising my voice and reacting with vitriol quick, a sort of self-defense mechanism I developed. But now after discovering the music of the 1980s hardcore punk scene (Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Misfits, Minor Threat, Bad Brains) I have achieved an outlet that has helped me leagues beyond.


So instead of raising my voice at people , I just raise it at a microphone.


Bands like Black Flag, Nirvana, and the Smiths validate how I feel. 


Bands like those listed provide me with words to describe these emotions I have felt for a long time. Albums such as Black Flag’s 1984 record My War absolutely paint the inner frustration I felt in the past and that continue now. Particularly the songs epinonymous title track, with singer -and my idol- Henry Rollins painting his Us vs Them mentality with his passionate, manic rant like screaming, especially towards the tale end of the track.


“My War you’re one of them/ you say you’re my friend, but you’re one of them.”

Other tracks such as Can’t Decide and Scream absolutely exemplify the emotions I feel when upset. Rollins’s performance is absolutely visceral and is cathartic to listen to.


Punk rock empowers me and makes me feel impervious to anything life throws at me. Oh your day didn’t go well ? Go throw on Black Flags Damaged and jam out to Six Pack and Rise Above. Oh you got dumped? Go throw on Misfits’ Static Age and go absolutely nuts to Attitude and Hybrid Moments.Oh you got a bad test grade? Go throw on Dead Kennedys Give Me Convenience OR Give Me Death and feel invincible to the soundtrack of I Fought The Law and Holiday In Cambodia

You get the point, it provides a good outlet for my bottled up emotions that empower me and tell me, “Oh don’t worry, this is just a bump in the long road, you absolute wreck!” (Of course I gotta have some self deprecating humor).


Bands such as Joy Division and the Smiths with their genius songwriters, Ian Curtis and Morrissey respectively, absolutely put into words the alienation I feel sometimes.

Joy Division’s records mean the world to me, hell I have the cover for their 1979 debut album Unknown Pleasures tattooed on my forearm, so that speaks volumes to HOW much their music means to me. The soundscape of their records and the absolute brilliance of the poetic lyrics of Ian Curtis, provided me a feeling of companionship in my emotions. Even someone from 40 years ago who lived in a completely different era and side of the world felt how I feel and showed that I am not alone. 


Smiths tracks such as The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and Back To The Old House paint this picture perfectly. Morrissey penned lyrics depicting a deeper yearning for something not held and a desire to move beyond the past that resonate with a teen 30 years later. 

I have always, rationally and irrationally, felt judged by people. So having people who have felt alien like me, such as Kurt Cobain, Danzig, and Morrissey, succeed and show that – hey, there is a place for you in this world – is very much a comfort for me.


Songs from people like this voice how I feel in phrases I would have never thought of or in soundscapes that perfectly paint it. Kurt Cobain’s Something In The Way, although containing very vague lyrics, perfectly paints how I have felt on many nights. 

Kurt based the song on nights he would spend alone underneath a bridge in his hometown of Aberdeen, Washington. Morrissey based Back To The Old House off of his upbringing as an enigmatic unwilling misanthropic teen back in Manchester, and Black Flag bassist Chuck Dukowski penned My War after his butchered friendship with guitarist Greg Ginn.


All of these songs give me comfort and understanding, since I can apply them in different meanings to my life. I have my own refuge, my own “bridge.” I have my own past I would rather not revisit, my “old house.”  I have my own tribulations I endure, “my war”.


So People like this, such as Tom DeLonge of blink-182 and Milo Aukerman of the Descendents , who were very much not the coolest kids on the block, being able to succeed and release art that provides a voice for the people like them is a beautiful thing.


It paints that you are MORE than what you have endured or will endure.


I very much idolize these people I listen to, Henry Rollins – of Black Flag and Rollins Band fame – particularly.


Henry felt very much like I do. In his past he was a very anger fueled young man, unhappy with ignorance and a lack of empathy from people. Alienated. I do not idolize that young man, I idolize who he became.


Henry rose above the negativity that surrounded him in his youth and during his time touring in the violent 80s hardcore scene. Nowadays he spends his time in artistic endeavours such as writing, acting, and doing talk show tours. He is a beacon of hope to me, he turned the ugly anger that once cursed him into motivation that is used to inspire his dedicated work ethic and passion into voicing things that make the world better.


I aspire to be what he is, a man who is just himself and can inspire others. 


One interview I watch over and over again is with him and Pharrell Williams in which Rollins perfectly encapsulates why music is important.


“Music was always very an important thing to me, because I’m not big enough to be on the team – I’m not making friends very easily- so records don’t hit back. Records don’t make fun of you.”


“I liked records because they didn’t judge you.” 


Rollins interview: Here is the link and time stamp.