Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Times They are a Changin'

"Those were the days my friends we thought they'd never end..." Ah, those old songs that have words that step out of one world and into another. I'm from an age where songs often (though not always!) had meanings and wonderful words beyond simply the, "I love you," and, "he left me," choruses.

Song writers like Woodie Gutherie and even the likes of Cat Stevens had pretty meaningful lyrics that put to music made you get really involved in your minds and not only your voice as you sang to those tunes on the car radio on the way to everywhere with friends. Those drives were often on the way to the beach, or to a school dance and with the windows rolled down the freedom of the open road enticed many of us to play the music loudly, and had us singing even louder! (Is this where the boom, boom, boom of today's kids thumping car radios comes from today?)

I'm really not sure who we felt we might reach with our voices raised in song, but we sure felt the need to express the tunes and words with anyone who might listen. Peter, Paula and Mary had quite a few anthems that grabbed us then as did Bob Dylan and we really seemed to feel the words and the tunes too (Blowin' in the Wind, If I Had a Hammer). During those moments we felt we needed to get out and change our worlds or at least change our own life directions. Our times really seemed to be going crazy. That image of the young people putting flowers in the ends of National Guardsman's rifles really stuck in my personal image of those times.

Protest could also be fun as some of the songs of earlier generations haunted us with songs like Charlie on the MTA and even some of the songs of protest from even earlier times. When I look back there was so much optimism despite the war, and hope too, during that period in our nation's history. But it also held an edginess and fear that hung tight to the edges of every one's existence.

With the shape our world has taken these days I often wonder if some of those songs might find a home in new forms during these hard, and fearful times. Curious, but those pieces of music shaped many of our lives. We actually seem so bereft of those kinds of songs today.

Where are those Peace Train, or Eve of Destruction songs that made you really think about where we were really heading during those turbulent 60s? Though I'm not really a nostalgic person and seldom revisit my old records, they sometimes waft through my mind when I consider the financially hard times as well as the war we are embedded in these days. Where are those who speak for our plight these days in song? Or maybe a better question might be, how might we define this generation in a really good protest song?

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