Thursday, July 15, 2010

I think I've traveled back in time...40 years later

And now for something a little bit different...This picture is of Arlo Guthrie (registered Republican with Libertarian leanings), his children and grandchildren in 2009. Doesn't look that much different than a family from 1969 does it?

Last weekend my husband and I were on our way to check out a musical event. On the we were talking about the state of the country and the level of pessimism that’s creeping into various segments of the population. Then I said, “Let's go back to 1970 and think about what was going on then.”

In the ‘60s and ‘70s our country was caught up in an undeclared, unpopular war which we had no chance of winning. Our friends were dying in Viet Nam and there was conflict here at home. We were singing folk songs with Peter, Paul and Mary, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez. Offbeat poets like Allen Ginsberg were appearing on late night talk shows—real talk shows, not entertainment talk shows—like David Susskind. Bob Dylan was writing songs that nobody understood but the poetry and sound of his voice were hypnotic.

And then there was an impromptu gathering of pacifists from all over the country who traveled long distances to a little farm in New York—Yasgur’s Farm. I only lived about 100 miles away but it took almost 12 hours to travel those miles on Route 17 as half a million people were heading in the same direction. We were all going to a music festival called Woodstock. Nobody expected attendance to reach those kinds of numbers. But you’ve heard this all before. The point is we were REALLY pacifists. That many people gathered in one place and there was no violence. No guns. No metal detectors. No gate after the early morning hours when the gate was knocked down by the hoards of people.

The culture was at a turning point. We said we'd rather get high than die. The country was on the verge of revolution. The Black Panthers. Abbie Hoffman. Back then it was the liberals rising up against the establishment who were the very politicians that kept us in that war. Figure that one out! This country was at a turning point. A major change was taking place in the music world. Young Brits were coming to America singing in styles that were new to us. Now, 40 years later, those same musicians are doing interviews explaining how inspired they were by Black American blues musicians. Yes, I said black, not Afro-American. All of our citizens are Americans but the great music was evolving from the black culture who was singing the blues.

I remember gas rationing and water shortages right here in the good old US of A during the ‘70s. Cars would line up for blocks to buy just $5 worth of gas. Gas was only 38 cents, then, I think, but the gas guzzlers used a lot of gas! (I drove a VW bug, by the way.)

When we got where we were going last night, it was a small Bastille Day Street Party. I don't know why they were celebrating Bastille Day in Orlando other than it was a reason for celebration and one of our great musicians and patrons of the arts is a French Canadian who conducts Cirque du Soleil La Nouba (here in Orlando) and he was playing with a quartet at the event.

The Stardust Cafe and Video, where the ‘happening’ (as we used to call these things) was taking place was about 3 stores wide. It was decorated with art done by the locals and videos lined the walls. There was a folksinger on stage and people of all ages were dressed the same way I was in 1972 in Coconut Grove. Remember, all of those who were protesting back in the ‘70s have grown up to be "US" now. People were excited about singing songs about freedom. The place was bustling. They had a full bar and sandwiches. It was a delightful journey into the past—only it wasn’t a tribute to the ‘70s. It was a reflection of what is happening in forty years later.

Once again we have an unpopular war, a president who has lost his popularity and we have the conservatives rising up in the form of the Tea Parties, the Libertarians, etc. They want to bring our soldiers home and protect our personal rights and freedoms. We have double digit unemployment and problems producing enough clean energy. Sound familiar?

Perhaps we are at a turning point in this country. The young musicians who were playing original songs that day were dressed like we were back then. One had a John Lennon tee shirt on. There's no question the country is going to get worse before it gets better, but then something is going to happen. Like Woodstock happened. What was thought to be a handful of dissidents turned out to be millions of people across the country. If 1/2 million of us showed up there, (yes, little Suzi Cross--not my name at the time--was one of them) then remember that the rest of the nation was watching on TV and young people everywhere were saying, YES!

Good music is being written again and most of the new stuff is is the folk genre; young people sitting at pianos or holding acoustic guitars single softly. Norah Jones. Fiona Apple. And blues is getting very popular. Eric Clapton tours and tickets are sold out in 10 minutes. (I buy mine in advance—I never miss Clapton.)

The natives are getting restless and change is coming. Not the change that was promised in the campaign. No candidate can possibly imagine what it’s like to be President until they are sitting in the Oval Office faced with the responsibility of the resolving issues.

The old pacifists are buying guns now, the very thing we opposed back then, to protect themselves from the government. We were pacifists then, and we still are. This time it doesn’t look like those grown up hippies are going to go down smoking dope. If the government was smart they would legalize pot and keep all of us quiet and dreamy. Willie Nelson seems like a happy guy, doesn’t he?

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