I was born in 1959. One of my first and most enduring memories is of being in our family’s den watching my mother iron clothes. The smell of steam and fresh laundry. The sound of the ironing board squeaking as she pressed down onto my father’s shirts. She worked, kept one eye on her three young children and the other on a small black and white television broadcasting the news. Tears ran down her face as she watched JFK’s funeral procession.
When people talk about ‘Making America Great Again’, they may think fondly back to the 50’s and 60’s but it was an era with many of it’s own challenges.
The Cuban Missile Crisis. The Vietnam War. The assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK Jr., and RFK. The Watts and Stonewall riots. Women’s rights. Civil rights.
The soundtrack to my childhood was also the soundtrack to a cultural revolution. I didn’t know it at the time but the music pouring out of the transistor radio into our kitchen was both inspired by the social climate and a driver for the changes afoot.
Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Animals, The Doors, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aretha Franklin, The Who, Sly & The Family Stone, Buffalo Springfield, Cream, Simon and Garfunkel and countless others. The radio pushed forth messages of injustice, peace, love and the need for enlightenment.
Throughout my life, I’ve loved music. My first 45 record was Dobie Gray’s ‘Drift Away’. I listened to it incessantly. My first album was ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ by The Beatles. I found it transportive.
In the years since, I have listened to music on 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, boom boxes, Walkmans and iPods. These days it’s mostly satellite radio and streaming services but I still have hundreds of albums alphabetized and safely stored in my basement.
Through the years, there have been some genres of music that have tapped into the cultural climate. Punk. Rap. Grunge. In recent years, it feels as though music has become over-produced, formulaic and narcissistic. The most popular genres of Pop, Country, Hip Hop and EDM seem to have little connection to significant social issues.
There’s tension in our culture now. We’re at a flexion point. Emotions are higher. It is my hope and my sense that we’re on the cusp of another cultural revolution. A revolution that will inspire the next CSNY. The next Woodstock. The next ‘Hair’. The next ‘The Graduate’.
Buckle up and get ready for the ride. It will be awesome.