Sunday, September 11, 2005

Personal Musicology

On Ann Althouse’s Blog there are a few threads about
music from the sixties and early seventies One thread spins from her
reaction to a comment by Camile Paglia concerning Joni Mitchell. The
other thread Grew from a reaction to a DVD Althouse watched wherein
rock stars from the day were sitting around on the Dick Cavett show.
Just after Woodstock actually.

Really interesting Cultural discussion since some remember
seeing the original programs or concerts. One aspect of the discussion
had to do with hatred towards Hippies. This is a strong cultural theme.

If I’m not mistaken the term
“hippies” appeared when some West Coast bohemian
types wanted to differentiate themselves form the hordes of wannabees
who descended on their communities. According to the old beatniks they
were not the authentic hipsters. The new kids were little hipsters
hence the diminutive hippies.

Born at the tail end if the baby boom, I was exposed to most
of the music through the constant replay that went on. I remember two
Beatles songs on the radio My mother was a College Professor, so I got
a sort of capsule history imprinted on me at the time. The songs were
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammers” and Fixing a
Hole Where the Rain Gets in and Keeps my Mind from
Wandering..” I started wondering about Maxwell and who he
was. From her position as Dean of Anthropology at Stony Brook
University, my mother had a chance to observe the cultural wars first
hand. In fact she was a survivor of the cultural revolution which put
women through college and let them earn Doctoral degrees. It would be
difficult to characterize as liberal or conservative. She was part of
that generation that come of age during the second twentieth century
war. She liked music by Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey, and even Duke
Ellington. When I was a teenager, she let me borrow a fats Waller


Protest songs were more the product of the Woody Guthrie and
Pete Seeger types.

Guthrie in particular was more of a “working class
hero. And Seeger wanted redress for pollution and racial inequality .
Those guys learned a lot about different peoples music and then used
music as a way to communicate Songs were addressed to specific
audiences about specific issues.

All these rock stars had big money behind them. I
don’t think they were that much different from Hip Hop and
Rap stars to day. Jefferson Airplanes “Volunteers.”
Was like this loud posturing thing. Socially corrosive bad music
fuelled by the rush of youth and a lust for money and power.

Some rock star hippies were more serious about their work. Bob
Dylan and Joni Mitchell come to mind, Although they have different
musical approaches, they put great value on the wordsmithing.

I had to do a Presentation for history class when I was in
High School in 1980. For various reasons I chose to cover the San
Francisco rock scene from 69 and 70. At the time I had been buying used
records and i pretty much shied a way from what was popular, So i had a
collection of offbeat weird sixties rock and i knew how to use it. The
professor expected each person to cover a band, so I picked a David
Crosby record called " If I Could Only Remember My Name...." Which had
All kinds of people on it. Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Dead, Slick
and guys from Santana's band. It was a very irregular album excellent
at times. Used it to show that all these different bands had a common
belief that people could cooperate and work towards a common goal; in
this case a decent rock record that reflected the values of the artists
who contributed. I think they believed in Participatory Democracy. But
I’m sure that they smoked a fair pile of 'kind bud' while
they recorded the thing.

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