Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Can Music Save America — Again?

There was a full moon hanging lantern-like over the campgrounds as I walked back to my VW bus last Saturday night. Music came from all directions. Performers gathered in groups around tents and tuned and sang. I remembered another soft time like this, more than forty years ago — 1967, dubbed the summer of love when music seemed to pour from everywhere. The year of  Woodstock when seemingly a whole nation came together in song.

Performer at the ABQ Folk Fest
The heritage is everyone's.
Joni Mitchell sang about it (Woodstock). The songs of that era everybody knows even if they were not as yet born. And the idealism captured in Guess Who's Share the Land was part of it.

The 1960s have been written about ad nauseum. But what did they mean? We sometimes forget that the 1960s was a time of deep division in the land, from the war in Viet Nam, to racial injustice and rioting, to the cold war with the threat of nuclear annihilation, to the awareness of pollution and  the environment, to women's issues and deep divisions between the young and old. We were a nation torn apart in many ways.

It was music of the 1960s that did something no politician, no statesman, no author, no poet, no intellectual could do. It gave a voice to the people. Soon we all were singing.

It was revolution in song, ideas in lyrics.

Now maybe — just maybe — it is starting to happen again.

Before there was Bob Dylan there was Pete Seeger. Before there was Arlo there was Woodie. The origins of the music that flourished in the 1960s had roots that run deep in the folk song soil of this nation.

It has been so forever at every turning point in our history. Yankee Doodle during the Revolutionary War. The Star Spangled Banner when the British invaded in 1812. The Battle Hymn of the Republic and Dixie during the Civil War. Over There during World War I. This Land is Your Land in the Great Depression, We Shall Overcome during the Civil Rights Movement, Blowing In The Wind during the anti-war movement, and so on. America comes together and unites in song.
I thought about this as I went from singing group to singing group — that movements come in waves, that we dig deep in our songbook to find was unites us. Or make up new songs.
Silhouettes of song and singing at ABQ.

I've lost some friends over the years. I've gained some new ones. On moonlit nights with music in the air you think of all of them. You think of the songs and the music made together. You think of the pain and the healing.

This nation needs healing now to build a new and sustainable world we can leave to our children and theirs and theirs.

I'd like to believe we can come together once more in music. A few chords, a few strums, some harmony and let it sweep across the land in a blaze.

Who knows. It happened before. It could happen again.

Everybody Get Together got to love one another right now — The Youngbloods


  1. That is just about my favorite song besides a Bridge Over Trouble Waters. I truly believe we can still change the world...we just need to make our world a little smaller. One family member...one neighbor...one stranger...one friend...it can happen!

    1. Thank you.

      One of my favorites too.

      I am with you. We can change the world, and this is a wonderful time to be living and a wonderful opportunity to do so. Perhaps we should not grieve so much for the old order as welcome and shape the new !

  2. Nice blog, post more pics from your bully ;) u life my dream travelling around in a VW Transporter... one day i will go on the road with my T4 ;)

    1. Hi Michi,

      I'll try to do that. Where are you and what's keeping you from doing it? It's not always easy but it is always an adventure.



  3. Dear John, you have expressed what I have been thinking about. What does worry me is that the U.S. again is pretty much torn in the middle. Opponents of your goverment are using a line of arguments I find very disgusting and embarassing for the entire nation.

    1. Thank you, Peter. I would love for you to elaborate on your thoughts a little. Our penchant for self destruction and last minute recovery seems stretched at the moment with no healing balm in view.

      Cheers and happy travels,


    2. Well, John I was thinking of the hate between political opponents in Washington and through-out the country. It has split friends and even families. When I today heard a debate between people who have hopes to be elected to Congress I had the impression they were kids i 2.grade arguing about banalities. They were just doing a re-hashing of headlines the voters have been bombarded with over the last year. Why can't the people in the US find a common melody to sing and pursue? Back to the sixties!