Singer Roger Daltrey’s recent visit to Target Center got me thinking about how boomers have changed not only the face of rock and roll, but our society as a whole. Perhaps our most significant contribution has been the social sea change we created by opening doors and mouths that were typically closed by our far more conformist parents.
Boomers who were young adults in the ’70s were not as radical as those who came of age in the ’60s and demonstrated against the Vietnam War. Decades of peace followed, but unfortunately peace subdued our radicalism.
As we moved into middle age, divorce skyrocketed, because independent-minded boomers wouldn’t stay in loveless marriages. Racial integration has progressed slowly, but steadily. Homosexuality is out of the closet.
Boomers don’t keep secrets. There’s been a refreshing move toward transparency — though we still have a way to go.
From church leaders to executives, authority is questioned, not revered. Women’s roles outside of the home have grown, but women who push too hard or too far are still treated with suspicion: “Why doesn’t she conform?” It’s a paradoxical double-standard given our generation’s “me” orientation and strong resistance to the conformity that characterized our parents’ generation.
How will the next generation remember boomers?
And why do young people today often prefer our music to their own? Probably because we enjoyed original fare that reflected our generation’s commitment to individuality and aversion to authority. Today’s youth are unfortunately subject to music companies that took control of the industry and homogenized it. One can only hope that the Internet’s filter-busting advantages will have the effect on the music industry that it’s had on traditional media: more voices reaching the masses.
In reflecting on my generation and its social contributions, I Googled “My Generation,” by Roger Daltrey’s original band, The Who. The lyrics are redundant but reflective of boomers’ generation and legacy. Here are some of the song’s most memorable lines:
People try to put us d-down (talkin bout my generation)
Just because we get around (talkin bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (talkin bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (talkin bout my generation)
Why don’t you all f-fade away (talkin bout my generation)
And don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say (talkin bout my generation)
I’m not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (talkin bout my generation)
I’m just talkin bout my g-g-g-generation (talkin bout my generation).
This piece was written by Peter Townsend of the Who in 1965. Townsend was 20 years old at the time. “Our Generation” was played on the “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” where The Who famously destroyed their instruments in front of a confused Tommy Smothers. (Remember Dick and Tom? They’re still performing together.)
Forty-six years later, The Who still gets boomers to rise to their feet when they rev up to play what is now our generation’s official anthem. Thanks to last-minute tickets from a friend, I was privileged to see The Who at the Xcel Center in St. Paul during the Christmas season in 2006.
Lead singer Daltry had a cold/flu; his voice was almost gone. He was painful but inspirational to listen to in a masochistic sort of way. The hair had worn off the other band members, but Daltry, with a full head of hair and sounding like he was on the verge of pneumonia, was spry and fit.
Daltrey still on tour is an apt analogy for Our Generation: Boomers don’t give up, fade away, or leave the stage. Apparently, we’ve given up hoping that we’ll “die before we grow old.” And in the spirit of a generation that is not afraid to show its warts, we’re not afraid to show our wrinkles.
Lynn Ingrid Nelson is a communications consultant; she blogs at SheTaxi. You can reach her at lnelson [at] linpr [dot] com.