Monday, February 8, 2010

Talkin' 'bout my generation!

Though I was born a little late for it, I consider myself a child of the sixties. I imbibed the culture and the music from my older brothers, and even from my dad, whose negative experiences growing up in fascist Italy caused him to be sympathetic to a generation that questioned authority, and particularly a generation that opposed the war in Vietnam. Though my brothers and I were otherwise raised to be pretty straight-laced kids that otherwise steered clear of the uglier side of the sixties generation, and even as I have since rejected much of the political ideology in favor of common sense conservatism (i.e., I grew up.), there is much about the sixties that causes me to look back nostalgically. If nothing else, I still love the music.

I’m sure many of my fellow baby-boomers think likewise, so it is not surprising that the commercial sector would tap into that nostalgia. A case in point is the choice of entertainment during the halftime shows on Superbowl Sundays. Young and old alike swayed and sang along with Paul McCartney in 2005 or Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones in 2006. There was something deliciously sweet to see that these sixty-somethings seemed to still have it in them.

Some performers have a certain raucous, raspy voice that lends itself well to rock-n-roll. It is evident in Paul McCartney, for example, in the Beatles’ rendition of Long Tall Sally; or Bert Cummings of the Guess Who belting out American Woman; or even Kenny Loggins (though better known for his folksy, country-acoustic style than rock-n-roll) doing Footloose. Another artist with that classic rock-n-roll voice is Pete Townshend of The Who. So naturally, I was excited to learn that the band was going to perform at this year’s Superbowl Halftime Show.

What a disappointment! As I watched in horror, I typed the following post on Facebook:

So I am watching this grey haired guy doing a very poor Pete Townshend imitation and I ask, "Who are you? Who-who? I really want to know!!"
That could not have been Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey on stage. What I saw was a couple of flabby old guys who could barely carry their own tunes. In case you haven’t seen it in all its inglorious patheticness, here is a link to the Youtube video.

The next thought that came to my mind was: It’s a good thing they didn’t sing “Talkin’ ‘bout my generation!”. Then again, on second thought, perhaps they should have. A delicious in-your-face irony would have redeemed the show if they had done a slowed-down acoustic arrangement as they sang:

Why don't you all f-fade away (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
And don't try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Yeah, I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Indeed it is not my intent to criticize and throw pot-shots at Townshend, Daltrey or The Who. We can chalk up yesterday’s less than stellar performance as a bad day at the office, and perhaps they would even agree. But the performance is illustrative of what happens to all generations. They start out with energy and exuberance, chock full of new ideas, and they have little patience for the thinking and traditions of their elders. And this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is often healthy to question and re-examine values that we may have taken for granted and perhaps no longer know why we hold them. In the end, the questions and challenges from the younger generation will cause the older generation to discard the values and traditions not worth keeping and to re-enforce those that are.

But in time, the younger generation experiences a turning of the tables. We grow up and discover that our parents indeed had a lot of wisdom, and we are suddenly perplexed to find our children questioning our values. Perhaps each and every generation should come to realize that we can all learn from each other; and—by the way—we will all eventually get too old to rock-n-roll.

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