Friday, February 25, 2011

We suck, yay!

By "we" I mean those of us under 60 years old. And by "suck" I mean we suck.

From this you may assume that I think 60 year olds and above are better than the rest of us. And I do. I'm not sure how much better they are now since they are old, but at one time they were surely much better than we probably ever will be.

I've come to this conclusion by taking a 20 year-old person from 1970, adding in the relevant cultural experiences they were conscious to along with the music that was being created during their lifetime by peers of the similar age bracket and have determined that the intersection of the various critical points of time had conspired to make a cooler generation than any that has followed it.

A 20-something year old in the 1970s would have experienced the Cuban Missile Crisis - the time when the world was surely going to end. They would have had parents that had lived through a just war with a clear enemy. They would have witnessed the assassination of a President, a Senator and a civil rights leader. They would have been or known someone who was either drafted, dodging or waiting to be drafted to fight a war nobody understood. They would have been experiencing free love (whatever that means), more drugs, a women's lib movement, and the end of racial segregation. They would have been witness to the space race and how American will could lift man upwards. They would have known such uncertainty, horrors and potential for good in such a brief span of time that they would have forever changed whether they wanted to or not.

And so much of this change was expressed in the music of their time. To this day, I still listen regularly to songs from this era. Even my own children listen to music from that time. My son was singing along to Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" on his iPod just the other day. This music was already old when I listened to it, but for some reason it's a classic.

When I was 20 years old, I was not listening to music that preceded me by 40 years. And I certainly did not listen to my parent's music. There was something that made music developed in the 60s, experimented in the 70s and honed in the 80s so fresh. Much fresher than most of the music I hear today that comes across as manufactured and soulless (I realize that's a mass generalization, but really, there's not too much good out there).

It's the passion and purpose that this classic music conveyed that is so compelling. There were stories told by the musicians. Stories of causes, of love and conviction regarding ideals of the time. Each musician told it in their own personalized forms from the Beatles to Smokey Robinson to The Doors to the Stones to the Dead to Hendrix to Joplin to Credence to Lou Reed to The Ramones to The Clash to Bruce to U2 to REM to so many others that I will never be able to fill in all of them. The one point to make is that you still hear their music today. It's got legs. This music is heard in movies, TV ads, and my kid's iPods. It's music from a very special time. Along with cockroaches, this music could survive a nuclear holocaust.

The rest of us suck. Most of our music means very little. We had it easy growing up. We had very little to fight for, very little common pain. We weren't under threat of a military draft. Most of the dangers in in the world happened elsewhere. We just watched from afar.

The closest we've come to terror is 9/11, but perhaps an even bigger terror for us is the recent financial meltdown. This was one of the few things that affected us collectively.  It's going to be hard to make good music out of that.

I'm not sure how much longer I can listen to one-hit wonders like Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You" or should I say "Forget You"? But it is a fitting song of our generation - music about being soft and selfish.

Show me a good song, and I'll show you a good country. Until then, the nation's gone to hell. We suck.

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