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Fleetwood Mac Rumours vinyl record - Moresby Press image

DREAMS: Vinyl records like Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 Rumours are making some young people wistful for the past. (Moresby Press image)

Gen Z Loves Retro Culture

As new generations discover the music, arts and fashions of the 1970s and 1980s, is something different happening this time?

By Greg Beaubien

By GREG BEAUBIEN     March 7, 2023


“I’M SO EXCITED!” the 18-year-old college freshman was saying. “I can’t believe I’m finally going to see Stevie Nicks!”

She and a friend had just bought tickets for a fall 2023 concert featuring Nicks—the former Fleetwood Mac singer—and Billy Joel, rock stars of the 1970s and ’80s. Some young people in Gen Z, now between the ages of 11 and 26, have taken a passionate interest in the music, arts, culture and fashions of eras before they were born—the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s, early 2000s.

In 2020, millennial pop star Miley Cyrus sang Blondie’s 1978 song “Heart of Glass,” introducing new fans to its pop-rock magic. In 2022, Gen Z singer Olivia Rodrigo performed Carly Simon’s 1972 hit “You’re So Vain.”

In March 2023, Daisy Jones & The Six debuted on Amazon Prime Video. Based on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s bestselling novel popular with teenage girls, the mini-series tells the story of a fictional rock band that has some similarities to Fleetwood Mac. With rich period detail, the show transports viewers into the L.A. music scene of the 1970s.

As the main character Daisy, played by Riley Keough, says, “what a time to be alive if you love music.”

Young audiences will hear songs on the show like “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” by Marc Bolan and T. Rex (1971); Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” (1971); and Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light” (1972). Familiar old songs become more exciting when used in a movie or TV show, and that effect reaches high gear on Daisy Jones & The Six. 

Rated for ages 16+, the show responds to Gen Z interest in 1970s music, fashion and décor.

“Fans are making TikToks that show images from Daisy Jones & The Six alongside pictures of Fleetwood Mac,” says the college freshman, who didn’t want her name used. “They’re posting videos of themselves wearing those fashions.”

Young people are buying record players, 1970s-style concert T-shirts, Polaroid cameras, bell-bottom pants and other accoutrement from decades before they were born. At grocery-store checkouts, special-edition magazines are displayed about ’70s rock bands like Aerosmith, KISS and Fleetwood Mac. 

Riley Keough and Sam Claflin in 'Daisy Jones & The Six' - Amazon Prime image

RETRO COOL: Riley Keough and Sam Claflin take you to the 1970s in the streaming series Daisy Jones & The Six. (Prime Video)

We might feel nostalgic for days we once experienced ourselves, or entertain romanticized longings for eras before our time—which from this distance seem to suit us better.

“Trends run in cycles, as generations discover music, TV shows, fashion, and other cultural items from past decades that seem new to them,” Dr. Katie Foss, director of the journalism and strategic media program at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, tells Moresby Press.

In the 1970s and ’80s, teenagers rarely liked their parents’ music, and vice versa. But many Gen Z’ers have wound up enjoying some of the same music their parents did.

“We can’t look at this nostalgia without factoring in older generations,” says Foss, a Gen X mother of Gen Z children. “While Gen Z’ers need to feel like they are doing the discovering and making the trend trendy, let’s face it, their parents support these trends.”

Even when rebooted by young artists, “the music and narratives are familiar and nostalgic, enabling a bridge across the generations,” Foss says. “It gives them common ground and shared experiences.”

The college student agrees. “This is the music that my parents listened to,” she says. “I grew up hearing Fleetwood Mac and The Rolling Stones.” 

‘People want to feel good again,’ a character on the show Daisy Jones & The Six says. ‘They want to feel hope.’

Jonathan Zacharias, founder of GR0, a digital marketing agency in Los Angeles, says there’s always an interactive, social-media reason for Gen Z nostalgia.

When Kate Bush’s 1985 tune “Running Up That Hill” reemerged to dominate music charts decades later, it was thanks to the song’s appearance in the hit Netflix show Stranger Things. The song’s resurgence was an “unprecedented, nostalgia-fueled cultural moment,” Zacharias tells Moresby Press.

“The Netflix show’s communal fanbase connected with the song in a way it hadn’t even when it was originally released in 1985,” he says. Part of the appeal of Stranger Things is 1980s nostalgia, so the song was “teed up for success to a far younger audience.”

“Running Up That Hill” gained further popularity through heavy use on TikTok and its high ranking on streaming services. The song’s newfound success “can be attributed to its viral nature,” Zacharias says. Cultural moments in Gen Z “are mainly due to how engaged they are with the content” on social media.

Gen Z has grown up with everything at their fingertips on their cellphones, so “it’s just so much easier for them to find and embrace cultural trends of the past,” Foss says. Along with music, “we’ve also seen this trend encouraged in movies and TV.”

Deep down, Gen Z knows iPhones and social media are not how people were meant to live. By taking an interest in the music, movies, fashions or lifestyles of the decades when their parents and grandparents were young, is Gen Z longing for the simpler days before the internet, before cellphones and social media changed everything—for the worse, as many would say?

“I actually don’t think the interest is about a pre-internet/social media world, but more that it feels retro and cool,” Foss says. Gen Z’ers who become interested in the music and culture of the past aren’t “yearning for a simpler time as much as partaking in a historical construction for a brief time.”

Or maybe the 1970s and ’80s were a renaissance period for American culture that today’s arts haven’t matched. Maybe the songs were just better. And more fun.

As a tour manager played by Timothy Olyphant says to an aspiring musician (Sam Claflin) on Daisy Jones & The Six, “People want to feel good again. They want to feel hope.”


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