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James R. Stout


            I’ve talked about it before. Perspective. The key ingredient to someone’s perspective on something is time. At least, it is for me. During the late 70’s the big fad in music was disco. 1977 and 1978 were the biggest two years and 1979 was fairly big, but by the end of that year disco was on its way out. It had all started back in about 1975 with songs like “Jive Talkin” and “Get Down Tonight”. Yes, there were some earlier disco hits that might lay claim to being the first disco song, but it wasn’t until late 1975 that we started to hear the word disco applied to a genre of music. For about a micro-second I liked a couple of disco songs. The aforementioned “Jive Talkin” is one of them. But within a year I was already making fun of the genre. Within two years I was wearing t-shirts announcing the death of disco. It was a fervent wish by then. I genuinely hated disco by the fall of 1978.

            It would be another two years before it was truly dead. Many people point at “Funky Town” as the last big disco hit. That was in the summer of 1980. Some “experts” say that “punk” music showed “disco” the door. Maybe to some degree, but frankly I didn’t much care for punk either. However, there were a few songs in that genre that I did like. Blondie had hits like “Heart of Glass” and “The Tide is High” (actually, it was more reggae than punk) that I enjoyed. I didn’t miss disco a bit.

            I only thought disco was as bad as it could get. The 80’s brought a lot of irritating music. The electronic fad became as annoying as disco (to me). Even groups that had been hard edged rockers were doing some dismal sounds in the 80’s. Heart is perfect example of that. I love their 70’s stuff, but the 80’s stuff just makes me cringe. Then came the 90’s and grunge. Some of it was good and some of it was decidedly not good. The first sign that perhaps I should re-examine my opinion on disco came in 1994. There was a made-for-tv mini-series based on a Stephen King book in which one of the bad guys loved disco music and played the song “Boogie Fever”. It didn’t sound terrible to me anymore. Now, I wasn’t anywhere near ready to listen to “Ring My Bell” or anything by Donna Summer, but I did have to admit I liked that song. Sometime in the late 90’s I bought some of those “Sounds of the 70’s” tapes. The original hits by the original stars! Each tape would include some of the disco songs and I found myself not repulsed. In fact, I got to where I would crank up the volume in my car on songs like “Play That Funky Music” and “Boogie Shoes”. I didn’t do that with anyone else in the car though. I wasn’t ready for that.

            The last 20 years has seen perhaps some of the worst hit music of all-time. No joke. We’ve had to put up with Rap, Hip-Hop, Taylor Swift, and a whole host of “music” that is just downright bad. There were the boy bands too. Yuck. The only rays of sunshine were some of the old artists coming out with some surprisingly terrific albums. ELO’s “Zoom” and Tom Petty’s “The Last DJ” come to mind. Even an ex-Beatle, Paul McCartney, released one of his best ever albums in 2005 with “Chaos and Creation”. And, there have been a bunch of those same old artists that have released compilations. The Beatles released “1” and their entire remixed catalog (twice for some of the albums) and the Bee Gees have released several compilation albums. “The Record” by The Bee Gees included their 60’s hits as well as their disco hits and even some of their music up until 2001. It was this album that I bought and realized that as much as I had not liked their disco music in the 70’s I found myself liking it 25 years later. My perspective had changed with time.

            If you had asked me in 1990 what my least favorite year of my life up until then had been, I would likely have said 1977. It was not a great year. But now that it’s been 42 years and I’ve experienced some much worse years (and some much better too) since then, I don’t look on 1977 as harshly as I once did. I could tell you about the negatives such as money troubles and other things, but instead I’ll tell you the positives. I was in my early 20’s. Eight months of the year I was only 21. I was in great physical shape. I could do just about anything. I had all of life in front of me still. I was a newlywed having married in September of 1976 and I had a young wife who hadn’t gotten bored with me yet. It’s true that I will never think of 1977 as a great year in my life, but my perspective on how bad it was has changed. Trust me when I tell you that things could and would get worse. But the thing is I have learned that life has its ups and downs. As John Denver sang, “Some days are diamonds and some days are stones.” I’ll amend that by saying some days stones get thrown at you and hit you and it doesn’t feel very good. Meanwhile, some days are as magnificent as a huge diamond. And you know what else? Sometimes it is our attitude that makes the difference. While there will always be things beyond our control that affect us both positively and negatively, it is also always our attitude that colors our perspective.

            So as of today, the middle of September of 2019, I choose to have a good attitude. If I allowed myself to dwell on the negatives in my life, then my perspective would be tainted. I don’t want to do that. I prefer to dwell on the good stuff. The bad stuff is going to be there, but maybe I can do what Jill did in the song “Master Jack” by Four Jacks and a Jill back in 1968. I’ll tie up all my problems with a string and put them away. I wasted too much time in my life worrying over things or being upset over things. I am making a concerted effort not to do that anymore. How about you? Won’t you join me?

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