I watched girls last night at a high school musical review belt out tunes from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s that were sung by women artists in those eras , and it brought back a lot of memories. Born in 1954, I grew up in the 60’s with these tunes an important backdrop during my transformative years. The girls from this all-girls high school, with their poodle skirt outfits and high white boots, seemed to have travelled back in a time machine from those years, they were that good and convincing. And I wish they actually could have experienced those fun but tumultuous times like I had.
Every generation waxes poetic when reminiscing about their “good old days”. But it seems to me that that time in our history was incredibly unique and powerful, with so much change happening in so many corners of life. And the music, ah the music, was so rich and yet so simple. It so perfectly mirrored what was happening across the US, especially amongst teenagers.
The girls sang songs from female artists of those years: pioneers like Ella Fitzgerald and The Andrew’s Sisters and Doris Day paved the way for female artists in the 60’s like The Supremes, Petula Clark, and Patty Paige. And they spawned singers like Janice Joplin and Gracie Slick who took it to another level. Hearing their songs struck a chord in me, no pun intended.
I love the simple lyrics of songs like Que Sera, Sera, Mr. Sandman, Where the Boys Are, Downtown, and Stop in the Name of Love. Even with today’s empowered young women belting out these tunes, the songs reminded me of what seemed like simpler times. I know that the country was being pulled apart by the anger from the Viet Nam war, the unrest on college campuses, the new generation gap, and with the civil rights movement. But so many of the songs of that time spoke of the sweet yearnings of young girls as they sang about love and romance.
Many of the protest songs that emerged towards the end of the 60’s and sung at Woodstock and other festivals were more edgy; think Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane. But 1967 was dubbed the “summer of love” with hippies generating an aura of sex, drugs, and rock and roll to rule the day. The high school show I watched ended with 3 songs that left us all with an upbeat mood: Woodstock, Oh Happy Day, and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La Da. That’s the way I remember those times in life and music: fun, light, combative, revolutionary, sexual, and hopeful. I’m glad today’s teens got to experience a piece of what my generation experienced, and especially since it was through the medium of music. They will have their own stories to tell some day, and their songs will hopefully express their times as well as mine did.