Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dear, Sweet, Precious Woodstock

Woodstock happened 40 years ago this weekend, and I want to assure everyone that I am focusing on it with every ounce of strength I possess -- not because of its importance in the history of music or the performing arts, since in those terms it seems to be, like Paris Hilton, famous for being famous, but because its true contribution to culture is in its status as a whetstone on which everyone can, nay must, sharpen his/her assessments of The 1960s.

Put differently, not to gesture enthusiastically at remembering Woodstock on this, one of its multiples-of-ten anniversaries, would be to pass up an opportunity to grant the Baby Boomers what they most crave and never pass up the chance to grant themselves: gazing at the navel of every marginally interesting goddamn thing that happened during the Boomers' formative years.

So in deference to that cultural imperative, or meta-cultural imperative, or whatever, I offer the following:

Baby Boomers, everything that happened during your formative years was brilliant and priceless and enduring, and if you, dear reader, are yourself a Baby Boomer, I realize that you yourself were there in the center of it. I see it; I acknowledge it; I genuflect before it; I envy the living shit out of it.

You were, after all, there when Howdy-Doody first aired; there when Elvis appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show; there when The Beatles landed at JFK; you were already slightly tired of Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, and The Who before they made it big.

Your heart sang with joy at the announcement of Brown v. Board. You were in too many lunch-counter sit-ins to count. When you weren't driving, you were riding in the freedom rides to confront the ugly face of Jim Crow. You were there on the Washington Mall, tears streaming down your cheeks, when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech, and you know exactly where you were when you heard the news of his assassination. Likewise, it goes without saying, with the assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, and RFK.

You burned bras and draft cards. You saw your own friends die at Kent State. Long before it was popular, you worked to bring the nation's attention to the horrors of the Vietnam war.

You're not even sure when, but in a upper east-side apartment, Andy Warhol himself rendered you in the form of a tomato soup can as Leonard Cohen, Jim Morrison, Nico, and Janis Joplin clustered in a mad orgy -- all of it witnessed by Hunter S. Thompson, who was either too altered or too sold-out to write of it in Rolling Stone.

At the same time, you were among the very first to appreciate the significance of William F. Buckley's Man and God at Yale. You were a Goldwater Girl, or among the first to enroll in the Peace Corps, or you volunteered for Vietnam long before even its most wild-eyed critics called it a war. After your three tours of duty -- or was it five? -- you returned, redeemed in the eyes of your "Greatest Generation" parents, but scorned by hippies who turned on, tuned in, dropped out, and spat in your face with a cry of "baby killer!" You wept with pride when Armstrong touched down on the moon, and proudly counted yourself among Richard Nixon's Silent Majority.

You were there for the very most significant events of human history, and focusing on Woodstock is properly understood as focusing on the singular importance of everything that shaped the noble being you've become.

You are in this video, literally, figuratively, and in all other ways:

Baby Boomers, thank you. You are something more than merely human, and I, for one, shall never tire of focusing on you.


FT77 said...

Interesting blog. Arguably, the biggest legacy of Woodstock is its huge impact on the real children of the sixties: Generation Jones (born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X). This USA TODAY op-ed speaks to the relevance today of the sixties counterculture impact on GenJones:

Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten a ton of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term. In fact, the Associated Press' annual Trend Report chose the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009.

Here's a page with a good overview of recent media interest in GenJones:

Dale said...

FT, I can see where there would be valid sociological, marketing, etc, reasons to subdivide the Baby Boom generation into pieces, and to re-label the younger half of them in a catchy way, such as "Generation Jones." Nevertheless, the people you describe and so label are just the younger end of the Baby Boom generation. And my gaze remains ever fixed on them and the shaping passions, trends, and events of their younger days.

Anonymous said...

I am that "boomer you describe...right down to a tour in Nam...but (and remember, "everything after but is bullshit") there is some kind of distinction necessary between "boomer" and "hippy" or "politico" or whatever...most "boomers" were not actually involved with the activities of the 60s/70s...they were observers, not participants, "weekend warriors" at I think that much of the nostalgia is generated by a present day, easy money, profit motivation and (in most cases) WAY OFF the mark as to what actually happened...for instance, my take on Woodstock is that just as many people didn't have a great experience as did.
Keep up the great your posts VERY much...keep on chooglin'!!!

Dale said...

Anon., Thanks for the kind words and for your service. This blog is the space to watch for fair-minded, balanced assessments of cultural comings and goings. ;-)