“Hey Fieldman can you cover my shifts this weekend? I’m going to a rock concert”
It’s the Summer of ’69 ( thanks Bryan Adams) and I’m working in the Cresthill Deli. My friend Jerry and some of the other waiters ( all a year or 2 older than me ) are driving a couple of hours up the New York State Thruway ( later to close, got that Arlo!) to some hog farm for a rock festival ? Well, my dad wasn’t letting me go, so I covered the extra shifts. For 4 days as all my buddies got stuck at Woodstock ! So here I am a member of the Woodstock Generation who spent Woodstock serving Pastrami Sandwiches to the fine patrons of Spring Valley, NY. Yea no regrets !!! Right!
So obviously music and rock & roll have a strong, almost visceral effect on my life.As I’m sure for so many of you, of all generations, music is a measuring stick of our life ,events and who we are and sometimes why & how.
Of course missing Woodstock had left a void in my young psyche, but over the decades music and events connected to them have helped to shape who I am
I teach US History and much of the focus of my classes is learning about the mistakes we have made as a society and country , for the students to recognize the injustices and inequities in the world. But, just as important, to show students how to use their voice and power to make changes in the world. On occasions I have wondered where it all started for me. Why is social justice such an important focus for me? In a voxer conversation on #edbeat with the esteemed Sean Gaillard (@smgaillard ),we were discussing my attendance at the The Concert for Bangladesh. This was the first real rock benefit Concert. A truly pivotal cultural event .It was the forerunner of such charitable George Harrison of the Beatles, along with Ravi Shankar organised the show to raise funds and awareness for relief efforts to aid refugees from Bangladesh, following the genocide in that country. I’m not lying , I went to hear former Beatles Harrison & Ringo Starr, as well as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, and many more. But, over the course of the evening and subsequent late night dorm room discussions about how we were going to change the world, I realized it was more than that.I came to see the power that music has. It gives us a voice, a platform,an avenue to express how we feel, and unite thousands, if not millions of people for a common cause.
Music allows us all to take risks, to see the world and ourselves from many different perspectives.Having watched Neil Young over 4 decades, I am amazed at how bold and innovated he is.It’s insiring. Always true to himself he changes and takes risks. Many years ago I saw Neil perform at the beginning of a tour. He came out doing his “traditional” rock show. After a break, he came out as “The Shocking Pinks” a ’50s band complete with grease and pink high finned Cadillac. A few months later I, went to see him again, same show, oh no, not Neil, it was Trans electronic music, and then an acoustic show! The lesson I learned was not to accept stagnation. Change can be scary, it may even fail (Trans was awful) but if I was to continue to grow as an individual I needed to not be afraid to look into myself and move out of my comfort zone. ( hello Major Tom & Ziggy !) It was not always an easy road. I have been filled with self-doubt and lack of confidence for decades.But music was always there, either to be my safe haven, or to inspire me forward.I could always find a song to comfort me, motivate or pick me up.
Music and concerts often become the sticky note that marks an event or place in our lives. It creates a timeline of both cultural and personal events in our lives.At the bicentennial( yea, I’m that old) watching Elton John dressed as The Statue of Liberty & Uncle Sam. That’s how you celebrate America’s freedom from England.Watching a Brit sing up a storm. Bonding with new college roommates freshman year listening to YES perform in our gym. Marching on Boston Commons during Anti War marches singing Country Joe McDonald’s “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” (also known as “The Fish Cheer“) My sister and all our cousins joining together at every family event to belt out a horribly loud version of “Whipping Post” And walking my daughter down the aisle at her wedding to Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows”. These have become the yardstick by which I measure my life.I can’t sing (when it comes to singing I am a great dancer !) can’t play an instrument, but man can I play a radio. ( OK a MP3 player)
Music always has, and will continue to be an essential part of my life. I may not go to as many concerts as I once did, but, the strumming of a 12 string guitar or a Wah-Wah pedal crying out will always bring me to a contented place. Peace out