Welk and the Wiz

Every now and then a conversation occurs that demonstrates the wide gulf of knowledge between young and old.
We had one of those conversations recently in the Daily Globe newsroom, and it started when our community content coordinator Aaron Hagen revealed to lifestyles and society editor Beth Rickers that he had never heard of the name Lawrence Welk.
Obviously, the revelation caused a stir.
Lawrence Welk, for those of you too young or un-hip to know, was a famous musician and bandleader who invaded American homes during the 1960s and 1970s with his musical television program, “The Lawrence Welk Show.” It was a long-running major hit in the Midwest, especially, but not just the Midwest. In 1996, in fact, Welk was ranked No. 43 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.
So you had to have heard of Lawrence Welk if you were born anytime before the Kennedy administration. Even if you were born later than that, you should have heard of him, anyway. He is a genuine piece of Americana.
Our newsroom conversation continued along these lines: the older ones among us expressed pure amazement at the younger ones (the 29-year-old Mr. Hagen was not the only Welk-challenged among us) had not been clued in about the bandleader. We explained that the Welk was a staple on our evening television sets while we were growing up. His show —mixing popular music with polkas, a little dancing (including a little tap dancing) and, of course, The Lennon Sisters —was syrupy, to be sure, but sure to offend no one.
It was asserted that Lawrence Welk, who was born in Strasburg, N.D., just might to this day be America’s most famous North Dakotan.
To that, our younger generation begged to differ. Roger Maris (who broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1961) was mentioned. As was the great NBA coach Phil Jackson. And then someone (I believe it was Aaron Hagen himself) mentioned another person with North Dakota ties, Wiz Khalifa.
Who?
Wiz Khalifa, alias Cameron Jibril Thomaz, a rapper. He released his debut album, “Show and Prove,” in 2006 and, according to Wikipedia, in 2011 he won Best New Artist at the BET Awards.
Beth admitted that she had heard of Wiz Khalifa, though she confessed she was not familiar with his work. I had not heard of him at all. And here’s a true confession: there are very few famous rappers that I have heard of, and that’s coming from someone who was not born too late to have known about them, if I were paying attention.
I’m not sure what to make out of all this, although I may be making too much of it.
People my age like to chide young people for not being able to correctly identify the century in which the Civil War was fought, and for thinking that Japan was on our side during World War II. But we make fun at our own peril. Young people today are learning things in college (other things, apparently) that we could never conceive of then, and most of us cannot conceive of even now.
So if they prefer Wiz Khalifa to Lawrence Welk, who are we to judge?

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