Rock and Roll. When it became popular among the youth of the late 1950’s and 60’ their parent’s generation largely lost their minds. Their music was soothing, and the upbeat stuff was Jazz, Big-Band and Swing. America was a nation of faith in God, and those serious about their faith liked hymns from the 17th century.
Every family had a Television back then and tuned-in to the Ed Sullivan Show every week. Then came the show with Elvis. My grandmother actually liked him. She said, “That young man is going places!” She was right as always, but most older people were shocked. When Elvis started gyrating at the hips, well, that was too much! The youth loved it.
Rock and Roll was innocent back then. It was fun. Songs were about love, relationship, commitment, belonging. That has not changed. But Rock took a drastic turn, a serious note in the 60’s.
It wasn’t only the music that grabbed the attention of America’s Youth, it was the lyrics. Artists wrote about the war in Viet Nam, social change, freedom, anti-government, drugs and free love. American values were changing, some would say for the worst and it was being spearheaded by Rock music. Rock had turned into the the music of rebellion. The Youth were ripe to rebel against society, the status-quo. The hippy movement started up and influenced hairstyles, fashion, attitudes and culture. College students were rioting on campuses. It became cool to get arrested for protesting like it was a rite of passage. Many died of drug overdoses and many more went to rehab or did irreparable damage to their brains and bodies. In 1969, it all came to a head.
Enter Woodstock. Hippies from all over the country converged upon a farm outside a sleepy community in northern Pennsylvania. Things happened there that you don’t see during the late-night documentaries. There were numerous drug overdoses, rapes, filth, heat exposure, dehydration and arrests. The media glorifies Woodstock, but for many, it was not a good time. Woodstock exposed the dark side of Rock and Roll.
The 70’s were different, at least from my perspective. Radio Rock became fun again. Content was about the positive things: Love, relationships, commitment and the like. Sure there was a dark side, but that didn’t get a lot of airplay. Today, we have Classic Rock stations that still play that music and we dare not call it “Oldies” because we refuse to age, no matter how we feel. The energy of Rock music escalated.
The Rolling Stones introduced a heavier thump in the bass and drums and it influenced almost every other band. Rock was evolving. In 1976, a song came over the airwaves unlike anything my 15 year old ears had ever heard. It was other-worldly. The energy was off the scale, the vocals soaring. There was a guitar sound that I couldn’t identify. I thought, “Whoever these guys are, they’ve got to be ten years ahead of their times!” The song was “More Than a Feeling” and 40 years later, Boston is still light-years ahead of the times. That radio hit, along with their second airplay, “Long Time” influenced the next decade of Rock that brought us the Hair Bands known as Stadium Rockers and Arena Rock. The energy was contagious. It created a generation that refused to get old.
We have a youthful mind-set that our parent’s generation did not have. We have more more fun. We exercise and play sports. And when these bands from four decades past come to town, we pack the venues with our silver hair, painkillers and our canes if we need them. And ofttimes, our kids and grandchildren come with. Nothing brings a family and community together like a night of ear-splitting fun.
I’ve often joked about a theory of mine that when your cells replicate and you’re rocking-out to some hard-driving, wall-shaking music, your cells replicate youthfully. Is there any truth to it? I don’t know. I just know it’s working for me!