Music has a way of defining the events and times of one’s life.
The meanings we give to those tunes that were popular during different periods become more important than the song itself…what was going on behind the lyric. And the younger and more impressionable someone is, the greater the significance. This was quite a regular occurrence for me in the late 1960s and early 1970s with rock music.
It was a chaotic time in the U.S. There were assassinations, race and anti-war riots, drugs being used by all classes of society, and a sexual revolution. Socially, it was about as libertarian a time as there ever could be.
Those who had been raised during the Great Depression of the 1930s and fought in World War II were assuming national leadership positions. They were taking up the mantle from those born in the late 19th century like President Eisenhower (1890), Republican Senate Leader Everett Dirksen (1896), and Democratic Speaker John McCormack (1891), all of whom had served in WW I. They were the “Lost Generation,” which was a term credited to Gertrude Stein.
President Kennedy’s assassination may have precipitated the chaos to come. But it was a clashing of ideas between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers that brought an unraveling. While the latter took their turns waiting for the passing or retirements of leaders like General Eisenhower and President Truman, my generation wanted things now…including political power.
I guess my parent’s generation never understood our generation’s impatience. They were the ones that empowered us to reach for the stars. While they were scrounging for food as kids, we never went to bed without a meal. They went to work, and we went to school. The pre-war and post war Americas were like two different countries.
They listened to Frank, Dean, and Perry who were all guys who had similar life experiences as their audiences. For us, the early rock and blues of Elvis, Bo, and Buddy metamorphized into that of Janice Joplin and groups from the Rolling Stones to Country Joe and the Fish.
As the 1960s were reaching its end, the music became more radical and, in some cases, had become more political than the love songs of our parents. From Joe McDonald’s “Fish Cheer” with its chorus of “One, Two…