Boring? Well, Maybe, But Not Yuppie

Originally posted November 6, 2007

A recent visitor complained that this blog is “boring and yuppie.” Boring? Well, that’s not for me to say, but I get the sense that there are at least a few people out there who aren’t bored with what I have to say or the music I offer. Others may find it boring, but, as a friend pointed out in a follow-up comment, no one is required to visit blogs they don’t like. So that doesn’t bother me.

Yuppie, now, I will take issue with. The term “yuppie,” when it was initially coined in the 1980s, was an abbreviation for “Young urban professional,” and described the folks I’ve always thought of as the thirty-something crowd. That was never my scene. I never worried about designer clothes or wines or cars, I never worried about office politics, and I never tried to climb the corporate ladder. I think perhaps the commenter got the terminology confused and meant to call me a Baby Boomer.

And that, I have no way to dispute. I was born in 1953, not quite in the middle of the years that constitute the Baby Boom, which ran from 1946 through 1964. So if my sensibilities and passions are congruent with the sensibilities and passions of many of those who have gone through the same march of years, is that a surprise? We are the product of our times and our neighbors, just as every generation has been.

My parents’ generation had its values, ideals and sense of life formed by the Great Depression and by World War II. My father had just turned ten and my mother was not quite eight when the stock market crashed in October 1929, setting in motion the forces that brought about the depression, which lasted more than a decade, pretty much until about 1940, just before the U.S. involvement in World War II began. During the years my parents grew up – my dad in a small town in east central Minnesota and my mom on a farm in the southwestern part of the state – things were scarce. As a result, throughout their lives – Dad died in 2003 and Mom turns 86 next month – they saved everything: string, boxes, glass jars, paper bags, plastic bags. You never know when things will be scarce again.

And just as my parents – and the parents of most of the kids I knew growing up – were formed by their generation’s experiences, so, too, was my generation formed by its experiences. And when I write about who I am in relation to the music I love – or in relation to anything – I am no more able to write from a different generational point of view than I am able to write from the point of view of a horse.

So I wondered as I thought about these things this week, is there any one song that’s anthemic enough to stand for my generation? That’s maybe a silly idea, but ponder that for a moment. I would guess some candidates might include two by the Who: “My Generation” poses us as surly, not having much fun and not even hoping to have much fun when the older folks finally do fade away. I suppose that stance, the antithesis of the Beach Boys’ “Fun, Fun, Fun,” might be appropriate if a bit dismal. The other Who song that I thought of, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” is a lie, because we have been and we will be, again and again.

I thought of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” Chicago’s long suite from its second album, “It Better End Soon,” Pink Floyd’s “Money” and the O’Jays “For The Love Of Money.” I considered Tim Hardin’s lovely admonition “Don’t Make Promises (You Can’t Keep)” and the surreal revolution of Jimi Hendrix’s “If Six Was Nine.”

I listened again to the hopeful serenity of Richie Haven’s “Follow,” with its tag line of “Don’t mind me ’cause I ain’t nothing but a dream.”

But I keep coming back to “Woodstock” and its haunting chorus:

“We are stardust,
“We are golden,
“And we’ve got to get ourselves
“Back to the garden.”

Joni Mitchell’s ode to one of the defining moments of our generation’s history still sounds good, whether one hears her spare version or the harder-charging take by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, which went to No. 11 in the spring of 1970. It’s a song that’s been covered many times, often by people who seem an odd match, as is the case with many strong songs.

Among those listed at All-Music Guide as having recorded “Woodstock” are pianist Ronnie Aldrich, the Assembled Multitude, Big Country, Eva Cassidy, Fairport Convention, Richie Havens, Paul Kantner, Led Zeppelin, Tom Scott, Snoop Dogg (!), and a whole lot of performers and groups that I do not immediately recognize.

Also listed, of course, is Matthews’ Southern Comfort, a group headed by Ian Matthews, who had been in Fairport Convention before setting out on his own. His group’s version of “Woodstock” got as high as No. 23 on the charts in the spring of 1971 and was included on the group’s fifth album, Later That Same Year.

“We are stardust, we are golden.” Perhaps not, but it’s not a bad aspiration.

Matthews’ Southern Comfort – “Woodstock” [1971]

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