“If your music memory serves you well…”, to modify an Arthur Rimbaud quote previously re-modified by Bob Dylan and you get the gist of a very serious and detailed scientific research by five scientists from New York University titled “Who remembers the Beatles? The collective memory for popular music” published in 2019 which deals with the question – which decade in music does the current generation of listeners remember the most.
The first assumption would probably be – the current or at least the previous decade , the one they really started listening to music. But as the research shows, 643 participants aged between 18 and 25 years of age that took part in the project, gave possibly unexpected results.
It turned out that the questioned listeners remembered more songs from the ’60s than those from the current or previous decade. The most remembered songs were Percy Sledge’s version of “When A Man Loves A Woman”, Blondie’s “The Tide Is High”, and one from the ’70s, “Baby Come Back” by Player (no not The Equals one from the ’60s).
As Dr Pascal Wallisch, lead author of the study said, “The 1960s to 1990s was a special time in music, reflected by a steady recognition of pieces of that era-even by today’s millennials.” He added that, “Spotify was launched in 2008, well after nearly 90% of the songs we studied were released, which indicates millennials are aware of the music that, in general, preceded their lives and are nonetheless choosing to listen to it.”
Actually, this is not the first study of this kind. It is preceded by a long list of research studies dealing with collective social memory and music, some of the more recent ones being “Popular Music Memories. Places and Practices of Popular Music Heritage, Memory and Cultural Identity”, by Arno van der Hoeven, from the Erasumus Univeristy of Rotterdam or “Collective Memory Embodied In Music”, by Andrea Kuzmich, from the York University.