I’m not arguing against the idea that music was more important to teenagers in the 60s than it is now; that’s definitely true. Today’s teenagers have much more immersive and interactive cultural experiences with which to waste their time (from WoW to MyFace) than screaming along to the Beatles. Although, I’ll bet you way more teenagers today make music than did in the 60s. So we could argue about whether or not that depth of engagement makes up for the breadth of reach popular music had in the 60s.
But what I really object to is the idea that music had a bigger impact outside of the entertainment lives of teenagers than it does now, or that it ever had a substantial one at all. That’s the Boomer myth that drives me crazy: that their music someone Made a Difference as opposed to the crap the kids listen to these days. I hate to break it to them, but all the important political stuff that the Boomers attribute to themselves and their music from the 60s was actually accomplished by serious figures who were mostly from the generation above theirs. From Civil Right (MLK) to anti-poverty (LBJ) to the beginning of the environmental movement (Stewart Brand, et al) to the war resistance, feminist and gay movements, most of the actual leaders that made an impact on the big events in the 60s were the older brothers, aunts, or parents of boomers.
The boomers are the me generation. They think that their good taste in music saved the world in the 60s and then they ignore the fact that Bush and Reagan were president for most of the time that they were actually in political power. The 80s and the 00s are what they have to answer for, not the 60s. The 90s had what virtues they did mostly because Generation X temporarily seized the reins with the internet boom. After the election, both David Brooks and Thomas Friedman wrote columns basically saying good riddance to 20 years of boomer rule. How often do those two agree? http://rubyurl.com/WkpM http://rubyurl.com/TVam Plus, they’re both boomers!
To bring it back to the issue of music, the main myth to dispel is the idea that 60s music somehow had more cultural influence — were more authentic — than our music (or video games or blogs or whatever) does now. That idea needs to be permanently and totally dispelled.
Sorry if I sound bitter, but I just feel like this is one of those easy truisms that doesn’t get questioned enough. Plus, I was raised by boomers.