Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation (Fall 2012)

In this edition, Cultural Soundings explores music.  We asked students, faculty, alumni and parents to describe the song, album, composer, musician or group they think best captures the spirit of their generation.

Kevin Agostinelli, Class of 2015

 “Home” by Phillip Phillips is the song that best captures the spirit of our generation because it has inspiring lyrics that were even sung at the Olympics.  On top of that, many people in my generation are or have been fans of American Idol which is the show where Phillip Philips became famous.  This song speaks to all high schoolers in the same way, telling us “trouble, it might drag you down, if you get lost, you can always be found.  Just know you’re not alone ‘cause I’m going to make this place your home.”

Travis Andrade, Class of 1995

 I would have to say “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from album Nevermind by Nirvana.  When this song/album/band emerged in late 1991 they came to represent the angst and anger that my generation felt and continues to feel in a country that underestimates, doesn’t care, or flat out ignores us.  Kurt Kobain became a symbol for our generation even after his untimely suicide.  Even today, the band that grew out of the collapse of Nirvana, The Foo Fighters, continues to be a favorite band for members of the class of 1995.  In a country whose politics continues to be dominated by issues revolving around the baby boomers, my generation sees a lot of ourselves in the anger exemplified by Kurt in 1992.  Is it any wonder that our parents abhorred this rage as their parents abhorred the swinging hips of Elvis 30 years before?

Nicole Collucci, Class of 2015

 Katy Perry represents our generation because she writes music and songs that are both emotional and meaningful and also music just to party to, which is what our generation is about.  She expresses herself through her music and performances and our generation is really into just being yourself and not caring about being judged.

Diane Klaiber, Class of 1968

Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., alias John Denver, was a musician who emulated the ’60s and ’70s—a time during my youth.   However, his music continues to be played in our home today along with Bach, Segovia and Beethoven.

According to Wikipedia, John Denver was an American singer/songwriter, activist, and humanitarian.  To me, he is someone whose music has stood the test of time.  Who doesn’t enjoy listening to “Country Roads,” “Annie,” or “Rocky Mountain High”?

I was able to attend two of his concerts where he played nonstop for 2 hours and used every kind of guitar and banjo I had even seen.  He was riveting.  John Denver’s love of music, the mountains, and nature reminds me to this day of the good times I have spent with my husband hiking the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Glacier National Park or listening to my husband play classical guitar and banjo.  Denver lived life to the fullest and died doing what he loved.  What more could one want?

Patrick O’Kane, Class of 1991

MTV moon landing, circa 1980.

You probably don’t know the title, but if you grew up in the 80’s, you probably recognize the tune.  It is just a few guitar chords with bass and some basic drum beats…27 seconds in total.

But those 27 seconds define my generation.  The song I am describing, of course, was the intro song to MTV (Music Television)– played every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, for about 15 years from 1981 to the mid 1990’s.

MTV is known these days as the television station that used to play music videos…well, back in the 80’s, MTV played lots of them.  Michael Jackson was the King of Pop because of MTV.  Madonna pushed the limits of decency there.  One-hit-wonders like Tommy Tutone and Men Without Hats competed with Bruce Springsteen and Def Leopard for air time.  Irish, Swedish, German and Australian bands received significant airplay. There were Friday Night Video Fights and the video game show, Remote Control.

As pre-teens and teenagers growing up in the 80’s, MTV was our cultural dial, our manual for what was cool.  Corey Hart taught us to pop our shirt collars. Poison and Van Halen videos made hair gel and hairspray cool–for guys.  Run DMC and Public Enemy video clips mainstreamed urban culture in America.  Cindy Lauper videos made it ok for girls to party like the guys–30 years before Pink.  Motley Crue and ZZ Top showed us some of the sex and drugs that accompanied rock ‘n roll.

MTV also taught us about world events in a much cooler way than any Dan Rather news broadcast could.  Band Aid gave us hints that Africa was in trouble.  Live Aid cemented this understanding.  Videos showed footage of revolutions in Central America  and religious clashes in Ireland.  MTV taught us about the Cold War better than any history teacher ever could (except for the current staff at Sturgis, of course!).  The Scorpions even provided the soundtrack when the Berlin Wall came down in ’89.

We saw exotic getaways in the Caribbean and lavish Hollywood lifestyles of the excessively rich.  We traveled to outer space.  We became acutely aware of homelessness and civil rights abuses.  Issues of sexism, racism, and homophobia were all exposed via those 3-4 minute music videos continuously shown on MTV.

Life in suburbia in the pre-internet era could be quite isolated.  Our window to the world was the television and no channel ranked higher for a teenager than MTV.  It provided the soundtrack and the video footage for our generation–with that simple 27 second guitar solo to remind us what we were watching.

Parth Patel, Class of 2015

The song Gangnam Style by Psy captures the party-like nature of our generation.  It shows the enthusiasm and upbeat spirit of our generation.  Although the song is in Korean and English the sounds being produced really capture our generation.

Michael Pol, Class of 1980

For me, there are two albums that capture the spirit of my generation. The first is Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, whose combination of love, desire for independence and freedom, and driving typified my teenage years. The other was London Calling by the Clash which reinvigorated the spirit of rebellious music with catchy lyrics and music.

 Pete Richenburg, Class of 1965

There was probably no greater musical influence on this Baby Boomer than the Beatles.  Their music was literally the soundtrack of my life through my early teens (Meet The Beatles) to my twenties (Abbey Road and The White Album).  Their music made me laugh (“An Octopuses Garden in The Sea”) and cry (“In My Life”).  Their music sometimes gave me hope (Imagine) and at other times fed my cynicism (“You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”).  Dealt with social issues such as the drug culture (“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”) and religion (“Lady Madonna”), alienation (“Nowhere Man”) togetherness (“Revolution”) war (“A Day In The Life”) life (“Here Comes The Sun”) and death (“All The Lonely People”). I could go on and on. Even today, I never tire of their music. 

Robin Singer, Class of 1973



simon-and-garfunkel-sounds-of-silenceMarion Weeks, Class of 1972

Growing up in the ’60s, we were surrounded by great unrest and great music. As a teenager, I remember poring over lyrics on new album covers. Little did I know those covers provided a layman’s intro of sorts to contemporary poetry.  The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and many others were creating poetry in song. They responded through music to unsettled times marked by a swirl of events like the civil rights movement and Vietnam War. When I think of musicians who capture the spirit of my generation, I am drawn to artists who are still evolving and making music that captures our common experiences of love, loss, life and death. Looking back on their early lyrics, I realize some of them are timeless. In summary, you may not agree with me but “I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers – I’m still crazy after all these years.” (Paul Simon)

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Bob Dylan
“The Times they are a-Changin'”

Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Bob Dylan
“Blowin’ in the Wind”

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made
And the sign flashed out it’s warning
In the words that it was forming
And the signs said, ‘The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls and tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence

Simon & Garfunkel
“Sounds of Silence”

I am just a poor boy though my story’s seldom told
I’ve squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles
Such are promises
All lies and jest
Still the man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

Simon & Garfunkel
“The Boxer”

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