Each generation influences the next, here is a quick look into the past to try and examine the future
Let’s take a look back in history, its something I like to do while I try to put a bead on exactly where my generation lies. I was born in 1985 to clear up where I land on the temporal timescale. What sort of expectations can we have for the future? Science Fiction and speculation aside, though I love those as well, where is the country and the world going? I vacillate between worry and optimism as I try to envision my children’s future.
The potential for human ingenuity is almost boundless as we work towards being able to physically manipulate the atom, thank you Angelica for making me watch the Unseen World which is much be done with much caution. The potential for human foolishness is also present and accounted for in a world filled with false wars, real wars and a class division that is starting has become a pronounced issue. So as we plummet into the future I like to look back to the past and see if I can place exactly where my generations’ footprint will lie. There are the Baby Boomers, The Lost Generation and Generation X, but what will my generation be referred to in the future? A look at the context and evolution of previous decades may give insight into just that.
It seems that the evolution of culture is mirrored closely by the music that erupts during the corresponding decades. I’ll start back at the roaring Twenties as music before that is fuzzy in my historical knowledge. It was the emergence of swing music and the post Great War high meant that business was booming. “Silent Cal” was president for the meat of the decade after the death of the corrupt Warren G. Harding slid Cal into the main spot. Cal was unquestionably pro-business, even going so far as to suppress a union strike by calling in the Massachusetts national guard while he was the governor of that state. As his famous quote states “the business of America is business”.But times were good and he helped America forget the loss of a president through illness, no matter how ineffective that president may have been.
Herbert Hoover took over a country whose bubble was about to burst. His hands off, survival of the fittest attitude was exactly the pin that it took to pop that bubble. Silent Cal thought the same way but he was riding the post war boom. Herbert Hoover was a genius engineer and great organizer. He was a terrible president. America slipped into a depression, the real deal and the most serious this country has ever seen. There had been recessions and panics in the 1800s but nothing like the Great Depression. 25 percent unemployment, people starving and a country on the brink. The music echoed the plight of the majority of Americans. The blues were born and folk music told the sad tales of the Real people, not the unaffected wealthy. It was rugged and real. It was gritty and true, the beginning of a unique American sound. Franklin D. Roosevelt took over a country in chaos. Public works programs did what they could but it was the Second Great War that stimulated the economy. War always does.
America recovered in a big way under the steady leadership of Franklin Roosevelt. He was president longer than anyone had been before him and due to the term limit that has now been imposed, longer than anyone ever will be again(hopefully). He guided the country well through the most awesome and terrifying conflict in human history and America exited the Forties as a superpower. Entrusted with safeguarding democracy in the world, or so it thought, the era of proxy wars and posturing began. Globalism started its ferment with the formation of the United Nations. This wasn’t the gutless League of Nations reborn, no the UN had some staying power. Something real to prevent another Great War. Big band gave way to Jazz as the Blues got deeper. Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters and T-Bone Walker lent their sounds and soul to the American auditory heritage.
The late Forties and Fifties were a scary time but you wouldn’t know it from the propaganda. Fallout drills were commonplace and kids made them out to be a fun distraction, not thinking of how fruitless they’d be in case of an actual and horrific nuclear war. The fallout shelter business was big for burgeoning entrepreneur’s. It was an exciting and watershed decade for American music and it flourished with creativity in nearly every genre. Frank Sinatra and the King rolled but Chuck Berry had started something that couldn’t be stopped. BB King came onto the scene with his form of electric blues and John Coltrane displayed a mastery of the saxophone that was unparalleled. The reality and new ideas of this music was needed. America had slipped into a time of comfortable delusion. Though the standard of living was good, underneath the glossiness of it all, a distortion and a fluctuation of the whole energy of the world was coming. The Beats told it as it was and the seeds of the Vietnam war were being planted by the French. It was called Indo-China then. America dealt with a war of different sort at the beginning of the decade in Korea. It was fast and the cost was high, both in lives and the lasting effects of a divided Korean peninsula. America was guided throughout the decade by Eisenhower who piloted a steady course through a decade where a cry for civil rights and concerns abroad had created an increasingly turbulent atmosphere about the country.
Vietnam was an ugly affair and the music showed it, developing a realism lyrically and sonically that had not really been seen since the Thirties. The military industrial complex that Eisenhower had spoke of preventing was in full effect until finally the dam broke. The Beatles are a clear litmus test for how the energy of the Sixties evolved. Clean cut and suit clad in the early part of the decade, by the close of it they had become a part of the counter-culture movement. It was a grand surge, if a short one. The sort of seismic shift in cultural identity that only occurs every thirty years or so. When the energy changed, the music echoed it. Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and the Grateful Dead all came forth to usher in a new sound, the birth of modern rock. John Kennedy started the decade with the sort of youthful optimism that showed that great promise of humanity I spoke to earlier. He looked to the skies and promised the moon but never got to see us go there. His successor LBJ leaves a mixed taste in the mouth. A proponent of the civil rights movement he led America deeper into the morass of the Vietnam conflict. JFK had wanted to leave the small jungle country to its own devices but he was tragically assassinated and with LBJ we instead plunged deeper. Led Zeppelin is a great indicator of the transition from the Flower Children of the Sixties to the hard realism of the Seventies. The music got harder, heavier and moodier and so did the state of the country.
Stay tuned as I will take a more in depth look at the Seventies and what it meant for the United States and the World at large.