I was one of those kids who refused to eat vegetables; mealtimes were often a battle of wills with my parents — battles, that more often than not, I won. If left to my own devices, I would have quite happily subsisted on an all junk food diet. Of course, I wasn’t alllowed to do that but there were a lot of foods that i just would not eat. Gradually, as I matured, I came to develop a more well-rounded palette.
Simply put, a junk food diet is usually more appealing to kids. Likewise, many of us are initially drawn to the musical equivalent of junk food, often preferring to listen to ear candy instead of more substantive music. I got into country music during the Urban Cowboy era, so there was ear candy galore on the radio, although there was a lot more diversity on radio playlists in those days. I listened to my fair share of pop-flavored music in those days, but I was always drawn to the more traditional country. Certain artists though, were an acquired taste. Emmylou Harris was an artist that I just didn’t “get” as a kid, but have come to appreciate as an adult.
Willie Nelson was an artist that was very hit or miss for me when I was growing up. Initially I didn’t care for his voice, but every now and then he’d come out with a song that I really liked. Like Emmylou, he was often more palatable as a collaborator than as a solo artist; I always liked his work with Waylon Jennings and the Pancho and Lefty album with Merle Haggard was always one of my favorites. Always On My Mind was the only solo Willie album I owned growing up. If iTunes had existed in the 80s, I definitely would have downloaded some cherry-picked tracks.
I recently purchased a copy of One Hell of a Ride, the boxed set released by Columbia/Legacy last year to coincide with Willie’s 75th birthday, when Amazon had it on sale for half price. It covers some early independently-released tracks, some cuts from his Liberty and Atlantic days, as well as a generous sampling of songs from his long associations with RCA, Columbia and Lost Highway Records. It’s difficult to like everything that Willie does, due to his willingness to experiment with a variety of musical styles and collaborate with just about anybody; sometimes those experiments work and sometimes they don’t. But in listening to the 102 tracks that span the four discs of this collection, I’ve been amazed at how many songs that I thought I didn’t like, but for which I’ve developed a new appreciation. I can remember when “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground” from the Honeysuckle Rose soundtrack, came out in 1980. I really hated it, but can remember a friend of my dad’s telling me to really listen to it and pay attention in particular to the guitar work, even if I didn’t like Willie’s singing. I’m afraid I wasn’t willing to put that much thought into listening to music in those days, but now when I listen to that track, I realize that my dad’s friend was right. It really is a great recording. I’m also enjoying listening to some of the earlier incarnations of songs that Willie re-recorded in his more successful days — songs like “Half a Man”, “Blackjack County Chains” and “The Party’s Over”.
With age, they say, comes wisdom. I suppose it’s also true that good taste is something that takes time to develop. I have to confess that I still hate broccoli, though.
What songs or artists have you acquired an appreciation for, despite not liking them initially?