The Changing of the Seasons, part two: The Summer of Love
Cold War interests notwithstanding, what really interests me is music, both as entertainment and also as a means of communication, of propaganda, of getting the message out.
As a young man, I was attracted to Punk. It was loud, harsh, and in most cases, very political. I was especially into the Dead Kennedys and through them, I discovered (former) lead singer Jello Biafra's spoken word albums. Jello's frank talk on topics such as censorship, politics, the media, and activism are what inspired me to take up writing (and to attend the odd protest and public meeting)! I started writing in 1994 and haven't looked back (although I have grown up a lot).
Before I discovered Punk, though, I was into Rap. In my late teens, I'd gotten tired of the insipid crap they played on the Top 40 stations. Sure, there were the oldies, sports, and country music stations, but there wasn't much out there that would interest a bored but searching teen. I bought or borrowed a few rap albums, but nothing really grabbed me. It seemed like it was the same pop crap repackaged for a different demographic. That is, until I discovered Public Enemy.
Public Enemy were labelled "The Black Panthers of Rap", and with good reason. Most (if not all) their material dealt with issues facing (and I hesitate to use this term) the African-American demographic: racism, poverty, addictions, slavery, and street gang activity. The liner notes in one Public Enemy album summed it up best, "Rap is the black man's CNN". PE turned me on to other similar acts, and it really opened my eyes to issues that really, in a so-called civilized society, should not still exist.
I saw it for what it was: a rallying cry... although as a white man, not one particularily meant for me. I cut myself adrift, and floated until I could find my own voice. After a period of searching, I discovered Punk and subsequently the alternative music scene and ultimately, Lollapalooza. This music drove my dad nuts, while Jello Biafra's spoken word material (particularily the political stuff) drove my mom nuts.
I used to joke that, over the course of my childhood, I was constantly subjected to their music, which in turn drove me nuts!
My parents were young-ish when I was born in early 1973. Dad was almost 23, mom was nearly 20. They grew up in the 50s and 60s, and naturally their musical tastes were centred around this era. I grew up listening to corny songs about where in Philadelphia the hippies met, what to wear when travelling to San Francisco (flowers in your hair, apparently), and protest songs about how many were dead in Ohio.
As I got older, I began to realize that maybe these corny songs had a message of their own. The more I listened, the more I reflected on events and sentiments of the era... postwar consumerism, anti-authoritarianism, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the Free Love movement, this cornball music was the hippies' CNN, galvanized during the Summer of Love and culminating in 1969 at Woodstock.
I realized these songs weren't just singing about events, they were inspiring events, motivating people, fuelling protests, and inspiring change.
It was the voice of my parents' generation, and a testament to the Power of We.