Thursday, July 7, 2011

How Many Drinks Must One Man Down, Before You Can Call Him a Man?


by Jack Solowey

There are a lot of similarities between America in 2011 and 1968. In both eras, the United States finds itself mired in unpopular foreign wars and highly partisan domestic politics. It is no surprise then, that the cultural products of that tumultuous year parallel the artistic expression of today. Then and now, protest songs top the music charts and provide anthems for socially aware youth.

Katy Perry is the Joan Baez of my generation – a subtly sensual bohemian princess, shunning makeup and campaigning for civil rights. Baez belting out “We Shall Overcome” with Martin Luther King Jr. during the March for Freedom and Jobs at the Lincoln Memorial never fails to give me goosebumps. Equally chilling, is Katy Perry’s cognizant articulation,Pictures of last night
 Ended up online, I'm screwed, oh well
 It's a blacked out blur, but I'm pretty sure it ruled!”

Perry even alludes to Baez’s 1967 arrest at an anti-war protest: “With my favorite party dress,
 warrants out for my arrest,
 Think I need a ginger ale, 
That was such an epic fail.”

Right on Katy Perry! The Containment Policy was an “epic fail!”

Whereas Katy Perry is married to the skinny rockstar Russel Brand, who goes by the stage name Aldous Snow, Baez once had a famous fling with her own name-changing skinny man: Robert Zimmerman, a.k.a. Bob Dylan.

In 1968, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix tag-teamed the legendary anti-war song “All Along the Watchtower.” When Hendrix covered Dylan’s lyrical brilliance with his far-out guitar strumming and soulful voice, the single shot straight to the Billboard top 10. Hendrix's opening chords melt your face like a blast of napalm on the Mekong Delta. The same can be said for LMFAO’s bass-thumping #1 hit “Party Iraq.”

“Party Iraq” opens with the stirring lyrics:

“Party Iraq is in the house tonight
Everybody just have a good time
And we gonna make you lose your mind
Everybody just have a good time.”

The first line references the house-to-house fighting that took place in the deadly Battle for Fallujah in 2004. The United States Marine Corps and 82nd Airborne Division consider their fight against Zarqawi’s Al-Qaeda in Fallujah the “heaviest urban combat” since the battle for Hue City in Vietnam in 1968. LMFAO’s line “And we gonna make you lose your mind” pays hommage to the high incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among the US veterans who served in Fallujah.

With young Americans laying down their lives in combat overseas, the youth at home would not and will not rest until societies reevaluate their principles. In 1968, The Beatles performed their iconic “Revolution,” lending a nuanced voice to the call for rebellion. In spite of extremism and destruction, The Beatles assuage “Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right.” In 2011, Hot Chelle Rae offers a similar message, declaring, “It’s all right, all right, tonight, tonight.”

While The Beatles lend support to the popular calls for reform, singing:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

Hot Chelle Rae takes demands for revolution one step further, chanting:

La la la, whatever,
la la la, it doesn’t matter,
la la la, oh well,
la la la

In 1964 and 2008, Americans elected change candidates Richard Nixon and Barack Obama respectivey. Both candidates campaigned on promises to end costly wars started under previous administrations. Years into both of these presidencies, however, the wars in Vietnam and Iraq dragged on, and new operations began in Cambodia and Lybia. 

Disillusioned youths in both generations turned to artists to vocalize their dissatisfaction with an unyielding status quo. The 1960s countercultural, civil rights, and anti-war movements were ultimately successful in bringing about lasting change. 

As for the fate of this generation’s struggle, the answer my friend is blowin in the wind.

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