Sunday, August 22, 2010

Old folks rock

Several of us who sing in a band together went to another band's gig because their lead singer is one of the singer's in our band.  Wow, that was convoluted.  Well, it was a really rocking band, tight rhythm section, two keyboards, two guitarists (one rather awesome lead), bass player and the lead singer.  Four other people in the band sing backup, so the vocals were interesting.  The audience was hooting and clapping raucously after every number, each song being well-written and well-executed.  I was impressed.  The band's name is The Shirts, who were a sort of "house band" at CBGB back in the day.  They're still together after several decades, and have put out two albums in the last couple of years, and all the new material is at least as good as their old stuff, and most of it is even better.  That's saying a lot.

What was interesting about that experience is that all the band members are around my age, which is solidly middle-age.  Half the band has grey hair.  They were all dressed very cool and had their own distinctive look, and they played and sang like they were 20 years old again.  The audience, I noticed, was also our age, and it was a nice feeling not to feel old.  I realized how interesting is is to be of my generation, rock was in its heyday when we were young, and I'm very proud to be a part of that generation.  Life was different then, and I feel sorry for young people today who grew up with AIDS and economic hardship that didn't exist back then.  We followed the sixties, when love was the thing rather than making big corporate bucks.  It was a different world, and I, for one, really love that I got to be a part of that.

I celebrate the values that we stood for, peace and love and brotherhood.  What do young people stand for today?  I can't tell.  They all seem so concerned with how they look, what brands they wear, listening to overly produced music that isn't the least bit original or interesting.  They most certainly are not political, as a group.  (Which isn't to say there aren't dedicated, very hard-working young people in the trenches of grassroots politics trying to change the world; there are.  And I bow to those young people with even more gratitude because it is not the zeitgeist of their generation, while my political activism was right in line with the prevailing social trends of my day.)  But why doesn't their generation care about corporatism and materialism and war?

Where are the student protests against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?  We were ALL over Vietnam in our day.  I was jailed at Stanford for protesting apartheid.  Why don't kids these days fight the power?  It is primarily young people who have the freedom, the time and energy to stand up in a vociferous way.  Where are y'all?  I guess Madison Avenue succeeded in seducing the last several generations.  But why aren't they interested in questioning authority anymore?  It isn't because they have everything.  My generation lived through the biggest economic boom in the world, a time period when the middle class and upper middle classes lived well for several decades.  Yet we felt the need to question those in power.  Why aren't they questioning now, when there is so much going so wrong?

Young folks, we need you to act like young folks, to be angry with the way things are, to protest war, to protest commercialism and materialism, to call for peace, love and brotherhood.  (I caught myself typing "brotherwood" - a great Freudian slip!)  I'm afraid it's almost entirely up to you, Gen Z.  Let your freak flag fly.

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