Talking 'Bout My Ge-Ge-Generation
Saying he deplores the lack of understanding about the importance of history and tradition among today's kids "who have no tradition other than slavish devotion to pop fads, digital social media and Cheetos," Mike Crosson, publisher of SocialMediopolis.com, is especially upset about music. Said he: "My father taught me about the Big Bands and Sinatra, and while it wasn't my choice of music, I at least listened and learned when I was a teenager. Kids today don't, for the most part. They don't expand their selection and listen to classical or Latin or International music or anything else other than pop rock and rap. They seem extremely insular and opinionated and obsessed with presentation rather than substance. In a word, they are blissfully and willfully ignorant."
While I am certain this is a refrain familiar to anyone with teens under management, it made me wonder if the electronic age is solely to blame for this condition. Just as Mike's dad introduced him to the music of his formative years, so did mine, but I took a greater interest in the history and sociology that produced "We'll Meet Again" and "Autumn Leaves." If you are of a certain age, your parents were raised in the Depression, went to war in Europe or The Pacific or Vietnam and lived out the GI Bill-funded "suburban dream." The music they played was strongly associated with those eras, often a direct reflection of their experiences within them.
You could not listen to Big Band and not think of World War II. You couldn't listen to swing and early rock and roll and not conjure images of your parents in their cocktail dresses and jackets and ties (remember them?). Perhaps it is our fault that our kids have only a passing interest in our music because we don't have thunderous events to tie it back to. Although Vietnam spawned a dozen movie soundtracks, it really only produced "The Ballad of the Green Berets" as any kind of affirmative anthem, Country Joe and the Fish notwithstanding.
How do you explain to your kids that you listened to the Moody Blues on the downward slope of an acid trip or were so stoned at the Allman Brothers concerts that they were 20 rows in front of you and you don't remember seeing them? Or you left the Black Sabbath concert because you HAD to get a couple dozen donuts before the stores closed? Or that you should only listen to Harry Nilsson's "The Point" if you have the psychedelic picture booklet that came in the album or that if you go see The Rocky Horror Picture Show you have to take a squirt gun and a pocket of rice?
Somehow all of that pales in comparison to troops marching off to save freedom to the music of The Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller. Yes, there is music associated with the anti-war movement of the 60s and 70s, the fight for civil rights and feminism, sexual liberation, and the start of the environmental movement, but John Denver was no Nat King Cole and Helen Reddy was no Billie Holiday.
All of my kids went through the phase of "discovering" the Rolling Stones or The Beatles or Jimi Hendrix, but soon moved on to hardcore ghetto rap or hip hop or whatever is featured on Rock Band. They took away no cultural context except to ask us if we were hippies. You would think that with ready online access to the music and history of the 60s, 70s and 80s that our kids would take something of an interest in whatever traditions or history developed around music when we were their age. But they don't -- not for long, anyway. Clearly, we were not The Greatest Generation.