Music has always had a powerful effect on my life and I was especially reminded of this the other day as I attended what was billed as a ‘musical journey…from the ‘60s to the present’. Maybe because I came of age in the ‘60s, but it seems to me that was the most interesting time in which to be alive. There was a sea change in America then and the music of the time underscored it. The music then was transformative and actually contributed to the political movement for social change.
The two major events of the ‘60s—the push for civil rights and the anti-war protests—shaped the political landscape for generations. But what stood out for me was the push against the war in Viet Nam. The Civil Rights movement was a few years too early (LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964) and I was in the Northeastern part of the US. Viet Nam, on the other hand…
Viet Nam was being fought on the 6 o’clock news every night. My friends were subject to the draft as soon as their student deferments ended. As a History major, the internal departmental politics were intense. The Departmental Chair was a CO during WWII; one of the professors in Western Civilization denounced another to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee; one of my Poli Sci professors was with the CIA and involved in the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. There were teach-ins and demonstrations on campuses all over the country. And there was the music. The music of protest and rebellion.
The Airplane, The Band, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, Peter Paul & Mary, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Grateful Dead and, of course, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
The music is so evocative. I hear an old track from then and instantly, I’m transported back in time. I smell incense, see people wearing tie-dye and see billows of tear gas. The hippies, the Yippies, the politics of change and rebellion.
Graham Nash…”We can change the world, rearrange the world.
Won’t you please come to Chicago? Or else join the other side.”
Buffalo Springfield…”There’s something happening here.
What it is ain’t exactly clear. There’s a man with a gun over there. Telling me I got to beware.
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
There’s battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.
Young people speaking their minds. Getting so much resistance from behind.”
I have seen so much change in my life. There’s an old curse that says, May you live in interesting times. I have. I was born for these times.