The Greatness and the Coolest Generations

Survivors of Peral Harbor

Survivors of the Battle of the Bulge

Many who know more about the generation that gave birth to the “Baby Boomers” will call them “The Greatest Generation”.  The generation that survived the Great Depression, that won World War II and enabled this country to emerge on the global stage as the greatest nation on earth.  These are, in fact, undeniable accomplishments of that “Greatest Generation”. 

No amount of words can fairly represent the many unspeakable sacrifices willingly endured by this generation of Americans during World War II. The debt owed to them by all Americans, and the world, for our freedom from oppression is incalculable.  And because it deserves to be said one more time, the accomplishments of this generation of heroes evokes only one description, The Greatest!

We, in the Baby Boomers, are so incredibly proud of our fathers and mothers and uncles and their friends and relatives, many who are the descendants of immigrants who came here to be a part of this miracle of American democracy and capitalism.  They built and manufactured and governed with the single-minded goal of being a part of the American dream.  And they were incredibly successful.

The enormity of the pressure that success put on the Boomers was expressed in more than the usual ways.  The sixties and its counterculture revolution were a huge expression of pressure avoidance. Although many, many Boomers chose the traditional path, and quite successfully took the proverbial baton, the war in Viet Nam and how it was portrayed in the media, led many to an alternate path.

For many of us this war, the war in Viet Nam, was a very different and multi-faceted experience compared to WWII.  No one should diminish the sacrifices made in the name of freedom during the war in Viet Nam.  And although many, God bless them, chose to volunteer for military duty, many more, because of how the war was portrayed, took our chances with the selective service draft.  And there were a significant number, because of the attitudes about the war, that attempted to evade the draft and military service by moving to Canada or elsewhere.  Those of us that “lucked out” with the draft system, we were able to carry on with our own chosen path be it college, a trade, full time work of some kind, or, to just “drop out” and drift with the winds of the counterculture movement.

When we look back at the sixties and seventies, we Boomers are old enough to have enjoyed those times and look back with a big smile.  Those were absolutely the coolest times ever.  Saying societal norms experienced a significant loosening would be an understatement. 

The music of the sixties was by far the greatest musical decade. The list of world-class, genre-creating artists is enormous!  Here are just some of them.

Aretha Franklin The Beatles The Dave Clark Five
The Buckinghams The Chi-lites The Rolling Stones
Dusty Springfield The Four Seasons The Four Tops
Gary Puckett & the Union Gap The Guess Who The Ojays
Jay & the Americans Little Anthony & the Imperials Martha Reeves & the Vandellas
Marvin Gaye Tommy James & the Shondells The Zombies
The Young Rascals The Beach Boys The Ronettes
Barbara Lewis The Supremes The Righteous Brothers
The Del-Vikings The Grass Roots Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
The Vogues Jimi Hendricks Dionne Warwick
The Temptations Fats Domino Strawberry Alarm Clock
The Doors Creedance Clearwater Revival The Hollies
The Drifters Joan Baez Blood Seat & Tears
The Isley Brothers The Mamas & the Papas Ike & Tina Turner
Buffalo Springfield The Animals Stevie Wonder
Neil Diamond The Yardbirds Grateful Dead
Jefferson Airplane Pink Floyd The Moody Blues
Van Morrison The Band Crosby, Stills & Nash
B.B. King Janis Joplin The Miracles
Roy Orbison Simon & Garfunkel The Kinks
The Byrds Cream Led Zeppelin
Sam Cooke Elvis Presley James Brown
The Who Ray Charles Bob Dylan
Sly & the Family Stone The Velvet Underground Jefferson Airplane
Chuck Berry Wilson Pickett The Monkees
Herman’s Hermits The Lovin’ Spoonful Jackie Wilson
Traffic Dion Donovan
Joni Mitchell David Bowie Otis Redding
Johnny Rivers Petula Clark Peter & Gordon
Jan & Dean Gladys Knight & the Pips The Drifters

There are many more wonderful artists of the sixties, and, frankly, the early seventies, not mentioned here.  This list is an assemblage of the greatest icons in modern musical history.  Although this was not intended to be an all-inclusive list, it is a demonstration of the marvelous strength of the creativity and virtuosity of so many artists in a single decade.  Unquestionably unsurpassed!

The impact these artists had on a generation, a culture, a nation was the most profound in the history of any nation.  Never have musical artists had such an impact on the style, language, the fashion, and lifestyle of an entire generation as the artists of the sixties have had on the Boomers.  From the early 60s rock and R&B through to the culmination of its affect in the 1969 event heard around the world, Woodstock. 

And not just in the United States.  So Many artists from the United Kingdom, that honed their craft across Europe, often used the music created by American Blues artists as a creative platform for their inspiration.  With great triumph in Europe, they brought their brand of Rock’n Roll to the U.S. to smashing success with this new generation ready for this new messaging and new freedoms of expression.  As much of this new music emanated from nightclubs across Europe, much of the influence on style and fashion in the sixties and early seventies also emanated from Europe in places like London’s Carnaby Street.

Here in the U.S., one geographic location represented the cultural and generational attitudes more than any other; the Haight-Ashbury district in the City of San Francisco.    This bohemian community, populated early in the sixties by the so-called Beat Movement, became the cultural high ground of the counterculture movement dubbed “Hippies” for their clear turn away from tradition in attitude, lifestyle, fashion and even language. 

The War in Viet Nam was a potent ingredient in this sixty’s cultural cauldron as the anti-war activists were a glove fit to the themes adopted by the counterculture movement.  Peace, free love, the brotherhood of man populated the banners and placards carried by anti-war protestors.  The country was in crisis.

Despite this turmoil and political strife, the peace and free love generation had a hell of a lot of fun in the sixties and seventies before, for the most part, settling down and pursuing a more traditional American lifestyle.   For the coolest generation, the sixties and the seventies represented extended “recess” in a giant American playground.  Some had jobs, some began careers, some just chose to turn on, tune out, and stayed out for decades.  A luxury afforded to them by the changes in American society and success of the American economy. 

But for most of the Boomers, a more traditional way of life eventually called.  Those of us who decided they wanted a family of our own, to own a home, raise children well and send them to college, knew this required a regular, substantial income.  Time to put away childish things and don the harness.  There were many Boomers who never strayed from the traditional path, but, for us late bloomer Boomers, the opportunity was there to have that life.  Hard work; LOTS of hard work lay ahead, and it was all worth it. 

But man, the sixties and seventies were fun!

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