Because this show was Hollywood's 80th annual gala celebrating its own wonderfulness there was a lot of reminiscing using video clips from past Oscar telecasts. Several snippets featured Bob Hope, a man who was an icon to more than one generation. Hope became famous because of his stand up comedy, his long running TV variety series, his many overseas excursions to entertain our troops, his road movies with Bing Crosby, and also because he was the perennial host of the Oscars, but when I asked my 24 year old daughter if she knew his name when his face popped up on our TV screen she didn't have a clue. Her lack of recognition of one of the most famous American entertainers in our history was expected and that is why I asked her the question. Hope has been gone for a few years now so his image is rarely seen on TV today.
Each generation believes their movies, literature, and music is better than the one it followed. Most of us are not only ignorant about the art and entertainment from different eras, we often fail to understand it, and we frequently even loathe it. Young people who appreciate the culture from their parents generation and earlier are definitely in the minority. As a corollary much the same thing can be said about those who are older. We baby boomers often feel alienated from the films, TV shows, and music favored by today's high school and college students.
I possess highly negative feelings toward rap and the entire hip-hop culture. Likewise, I've never been turned on by the 90s grunge movement. However I am glad that I've been exposed to and learned to appreciate many musical artists who have either made their their greatest impact, or recorded their debut, in the new millennium. Since Y2K I've discovered Los Lonely Boys, The Cat Empire, Sea Wolf, Kathleen Edwards, Brandi Carlile, James Hunter, Michael Buble, and Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, just to name a few. At the same time I haven't forgotten the musical heroes of my youth, most notably, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, Chicago, many of the Motown groups, and the classic rock bands of the later British Invasion. My mother instilled in me an appreciation for the old big bands of the World War Two era, especially Glenn Miller and Harry James, which in turn led me to seek out and discover Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and others. I'm glad I've made all of these artists from different eras a part of my musical life.
The point of all of this is simple. It's sad that someone who means so much to an entire generation, and has put so much time and energy into their art, has no place in the consciousness of succeeding generations.
I'll end this article with some musical and movie history. Can anyone under the age of 50 (and maybe some of you who are even older) identify the picture and the voice of Al Jolson, who was beyond argument, the most popular singer of the early 20th century? Even if Jolson isn't your cup of tea it would be nice if people were interested enough in our history to learn about him. Today he is mostly known for starring in the first widely released talking movie, The Jazz Singer, that debuted in 1927. Here is a clip of Jolson in action.