I watched a Great Performances offering the other night, featuring the iconic Joan Baez singing “Forever Young.” I was a fan of hers back in the ’60s, when we all longed to be long-haired singers of meaningful folk songs. Listening to her now, her voice has mellowed and grown richer with age and experience. She was one of the reasons I took up singing and guitar playing.
Then there was the folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, who became more voices of my generation. How I loved them then, how I still love their songs today, and how I remember Mary (who sadly succumbed to leukemia in 2009); a slim white flame of passion.
There was also Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, Cat Stevens, Gorden Lightfoot, Petula Clark, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Creedence, Judy Collins, Neil Young, Pete Seeger, Gene Pitney, Arlo Guthrie and so many, many more.
We define our generations by the music of our youth and coming of age. In our minds back then, ours was the best music ever written. We go back in time when we hear a song from that era, and in a flash, we are teenagers again.
We know that we look ridiculous when one of “our” songs is on the radio, and we sing along with the music and tap our thumbs on the steering wheel to the beat. We don’t even care when a car load of kids drives up beside us at a stop light and laughs at us oldsters bopping away.
Our music is in fact, our own time machine. Whenever I hear the Stones’ “Honkey-Tonk Woman,” I am back at college, dancing on a crowded floor with everyone singing the song with me. In that song, I am young again with so much ahead of me.
However, I keep my ears open to some of the new music today. I have fallen in love with Adele, Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, Imagine Dragons, One Direction, Green Day, and many more. The only music of today that I just can’t understand or appreciate is rap.
While rap music is undoubtedly the “folk songs” of this generation, it’s just too “in your face,” rude and loud for me. It feels intrusive, abrasive and non-musical. Just my two cents. Ah well, these may be the anthems of the young today as our music was for us. Much of it back then drove our parents nuts as well.
Oh, the times they are a-changing, but the music we love remains the same. May we always in our hearts be forever young.