Tag Archive | Pete Seeger

1960 to 1970 MUSIC INFLUENCES ME

 

 

 

 

Popular music enters an era of “all hits”, as numerous artists release recordings, beginning in the 1950s, as 45-rpm “singles” (with another on the flip side), and radio stations tended to play only the most popular of the wide variety of records being made. Also, bands tended to record only the best of their songs as a chance to become a hit record. The taste of the American listeners expanded from the folksinger, doo-wop and saxophone sounds of the 1950s to the Motown sound, folk rock and the British Invasion. The Los Angeles and San Francisco Sound began in this period with many popular bands coming out of LA and the Haight-Ashbury district, well known for its hippie culture. The rise of the counterculture movement, particularly among the youth, created a market for rock, soul, pop, reggae and blues music.

 

Bob Dylan an American singer-songwriter, musician and artist, is an influential figure in popular music and culture. His work from the 1960s is when he is an informal chronicler and a seemingly reluctant figurehead of social unrest. A number of Dylan’s early songs, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’“, became anthems for the US civil rights and anti-war movements. Leaving his initial base in the culture of folk music behind, Dylan’s six-minute single “Like a Rolling Stone” has been described as radically altering the parameters of popular music and is a top-five hit on both sides of the Atlantic during the summer of 1965. He goes electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and his recordings employing electric instruments attracted denunciation and criticism from others in the folk movement. Dylan’s lyrics incorporated a variety of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences; defying existing pop music conventions and appealing hugely to the burgeoning counterculture. His albums Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited usher in album focused rock and the “folk rock” genre. I first hear about him in High school and when in nursing school most kids with guitars, playing in the parks on the Eastside are imitating him.

 

Lesley Gore, at the age of 17 hits Number one with “It’s My Party” and in 1964 I play it at my 16th birthday party; and another one of her hits is Number 2 “You Don’t Own Me” which I loved to sing when it comes on the radio for I do not want to be owned and to own myself is the goal.

 

The Beatles are an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. Their first single, “Love Me Do“, is a hit in late 1962, which has all us kids, singing and dancing to it, it’s so contagious. They are called the British Invasion, when they arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport on 7 February 1964. They hit Number one with “I Wanna Hold Your Hand“, it has a great positive beat that is wonderful to dance to, holding hands with friends has me feeling connected and there is nothing like holding hands with someone of the opposite sex to excite my energy. All their music is amazing, innovative and widely influential, albums like Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966), Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles (1968), and Abbey Road (1969), are an embodiment of the ideals shared by the era’s sociocultural revolutions while utilizing several genres, ranging from pop ballads to psychedelic rock, often incorporating classical and other elements in innovative ways. I learn all the words and hammer them out with feeling, really getting into their music.

 

The Supremes, an American female singing group and the premier act of Motown Records during the 1960s, repertoire included doo-wop, pop, soul, Broadway show tunes, psychedelic soul, and disco while scoring twelve number one hit singles between 1964 and 1969, beginning with “Where Did Our Love Go”. In 1966, The Supremes A’ Go-Go was the first album by a female group to reach the top position of the Billboard in the United States.  I was so jazzed when I saw them in concert, girls all over just love imitating the movements that go with the word they sing, including me.

 

The Kinks are an English rock band who first came to prominence with the release of their first hit single “You Really Got Me” in late 1964, and became an international hit; it is regarded as the first hard rock hit which was the best song to do the jerk to. “You got me so I don’t know what I’m doing…” that statement describes the feeling of being obsessed with someone which interferes with thinking, feeling and sensing and we all experience that at some point in our lives, don’t we? The group released a string of singles and LPs, and their music is influenced by a wide range of genres, including rhythm and blues, British music hall, folk and country. I am learning to appreciate and enjoy all types of music.

 

John Coltrane is an American jazz saxophonist and composer, into bebop, helping to pioneer the use of modes in jazz and later was at the forefront of free jazz. He organized recording sessions, appeared as a sideman on many other albums, notably with trumpeter Miles Davis, and his music took on an increasingly spiritual dimension. He releases A Love Supreme in late 1964, considered among the most acclaimed jazz albums of the era, he was one of the many jazz musicians I got to see live for free when I moved to Boston in 1970. My friend turned me onto Jazz when we moved to Boston expanding my music education and bring out a way to experience depth of feeling through music.

 

The Grateful Dead an American rock band was formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California paving the way and giving birth to Acid rock. The band is known for its unique and eclectic style, which fuses elements of: rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae, country, improvisational jazz, psychedelic, and live performances of long musical improvisation. These various influences made the Grateful Dead “the pioneering Godfathers of jamming”. The fans of the Grateful Dead, are known as “Deadheads”.

 

The Rolling Stones an English rock band formed in London in 1962 and consist of Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica), Ian Stewart (piano), Mick Jagger (lead vocals, harmonica), Keith Richard (guitar, vocals), Bill Wyman (bass) and Charlie Watts (drums), they have a huge #1 hit with their song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in the summer of 1965. I belted out this song with great feeling, I identify it with my life which has more meaning than just a sexual focus, and being a virgin it gives me insight into how guys experience me in a relationship. These guys are sexy and put great feeling into their music, I love it all.

 

Simon and Garfunkel an American music duo rose to fame in 1965, on the hit single “The Sound of Silence“. Their biggest hits – including “I Am a Rock” (1965), “Homeward Bound” (1965), “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” (1966), “A Hazy Shade of Winter” (1966), “Mrs. Robinson” (1968), “Bridge over Troubled Water” (1969), “The Boxer” (1969), and “Cecilia” (1969). I love their vocal harmonies and became one of their followers right from the start, in nursing school my friends and I sing many of their songs together as we walk arm in arm or holding hands as we leave the hospital and head to downtown providence. Simon and Garfunkel release the single Mrs. Robinson in 1968 featured in the film The Graduate which makes quite a stir about older women going after younger men.

 

In February 1966, Nancy Sinatra’s song “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” became very popular. Now here is a song I really get into physically by pounding my feet on the ground while singing “These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do, and one of these days these boots are going to walk all over you…start walking”.

 

Jefferson Airplane an American rock band formed in San Francisco in 1965. A pioneer of the psychedelic rock movement, Jefferson Airplane was the first band from the San Francisco scene to achieve mainstream success. The band performs at the three most famous American rock festivals of the 1960s—Monterey (1967), Woodstock (1969) and Altamont (1969)—as well as headlining the first Isle of Wight Festival. Their 1967 record Surrealistic Pillow is regarded as one of the key recordings of the so-called Summer of Love and brought the group international recognition; two chart hits from the album, are “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit“. I love Gracie, her voice her music, and the way she moves. I buy all their albums, dancing in my room, loving to imitate her twirling around in circles while screaming out the words. I have the White Rabbit poster in my room at nursing school.

 

The Velvet Underground with Lou Reed release their influential self-titled debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico in 1967, which is recorded in 1966 during Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia event tour and focuses on controversial subject matter expressed in many of their songs including: drug abuse, prostitution, sadism, masochism and sexual deviancy. I get this album and listened to it frequently, the cover has a banana sticker that peels off and I am trying to understand the extreme behavior of others of my generation, almost studying them.

 

The Doors release their self-titled debut album The Doors in January 1967. Vocalist Jim Morrison is very controversial and extremely charismatic. My sister and I purchased this album together and play it on our little phonographic machine in our room, love the lyrics. “Break on through to the other side” and “Light my Fire” are my favorites.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience release two successful albums during 1967 Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold as Love that has innovate guitar, trio and recording techniques. The Jimi Hendrix Experience released the double LP Electric Ladyland in 1968 that furthered the guitar and studio innovations of his previous two albums. With the band, Hendrix recorded his five hit singles “Hey Joe“, “Purple Haze“, “The Wind Cries Mary“, “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” and “All Along the Watchtower“. Hendrix is mind boggling to watch how he combined lead and rhythm guitar duties into one, while also making use of guitar effects such as feedback, and later the wah-wah pedal, to an extent that has never been heard before and when he uses his teeth on the strings it sends shivers through me.

 

The Moody Blues release the album Days of Future Passed in November 1967, a great album that sounds like an orchestra. With my favorites being “Tuesday Afternoon”, and “The Night: Nights in White Satin”, this music seems to elevate me as if I am in the clouds flying high with spirit.

 

R & B legend Otis Redding an American soul singer-songwriter with a great open-throated singing voice thus is a major figures in soul music and rhythm and blues (R&B). After appearing at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, he writes and recorded “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” which become number-one on the charts after his death in a plane crash.

 

The Bee Gees release their international debut album Bee Gees 1st in July 1967 which contains “To Love Somebody” a soulful ballad sung by Barry, “New York Mining Disaster 1941“, “Massachusetts“, and “World“. The sound of the album Horizontal has a more “rock” sound than their previous release, though ballads like “And the Sun Will Shine” and “Really and Sincerely” were also prominent.  Two more singles followed in early 1968, the ballad “Words” and the double A-sided single “Jumbo” b/w “The Singer Sang His Song”. “Jumbo“. Further Bee Gees chart singles followed: “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You“, and “I Started a Joke”. I find their music very catchy and love story telling.

 

The Yardbirds are an English rock band that has a string of hits in the mid 1960s, including “For Your Love“, “Over Under Sideways Down” and “Heart Full of Soul“. The group has three amazing rock guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. A blues-based band that broadens its range into pop and rock, the Yardbirds had a hand in many electric guitar innovations of the mid-1960s, such as feedback, “fuzz-tone” distortion and improved amplification. After the Yardbirds breaks up in 1968, their lead guitarist Jimmy Page founds what become Led Zeppelin, with Robert Plant; and, releases their debut album Led Zeppelin. I go crazy when I see Jimmy Page and Robert Plant singing on stage at The Boston Garden.

 

Big Brother and the Holding Company, with Janis Joplin as lead singer, is an American rock band that forms in San Francisco in 1965 as part of the psychedelic music scene and becomes an overnight sensation after their performance at Monterey Pop in 1967 and release their second album Cheap Thrills in 1968 which reaches number one. I buy this album when in Boston it gets stacked on my record player during the night with the rest of my favorites; I imitate her by learning to drink straight whiskey thinking it’s cool.

 

Gram Parsons with The Byrds is an American rock band, formed in Los Angeles, California in 1964. Initially, they pioneered the musical genre of folk rock, melding the influence of other British bands with contemporary and traditional folk music. I enjoy their blend of clear harmony singing and twelve-string guitar found in their most enduring songs: Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man“, Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There is a Season)”, along with the self-penned originals, “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better“, “Eight Miles High“, “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, “Ballad of Easy Rider”. I buy this album and quickly learn all the lyrics by heart, identifying with what is being said. They release the LP Sweetheart of the Rodeo in late 1968, forming the basis for country rock.

 

 

Sly & the Family Stone, from San Francisco are pivotal in the development of rock, soul, funk, and psychedelic music. Headed by singer, songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist Sly Stone and containing several of his family members and friends, the band is the first major American rock band to have an “integrated, multi-gender” lineup. In late 1968, they released the single hit “Everyday People“, which is a protest against prejudices of all kinds,and popularized the catchphrase “different strokes for different folks.” With its b-side “Sing a Simple Song“. Also in 1968 hit single “Dance to the Music”. In 1969 they release a hit single record “Stand” with “I Want to Take You Higher” on the b side then these songs are put on the album Stand which also contains “You Can Make It If You Try”. They do the Woodstock Music and Art Festival and become a vital counterculture band.A new non-album single, “Hot Fun in the Summertime”, is released the same month and hits number two.

 

The Who an English rock band release their album Tommy which is a double album telling an interesting story about a “deaf, dumb and blind kid” who becomes the leader of a movement, and the first rock opera. Released in 1969, the album is mostly composed by Pete Townshend. The lyrics tell a great story and there are many symbols I can identify with and use on my path to healing: “I’m free”“See me. Feel me. Touch me. Heal me.”

 

The Beatles, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and others created revolution and evolution themes. The music is like a Dalí painting, with many colors and revolutionary ways.

The Popular culture is the counterculture movement which dominates the second half of the 1960s, its most famous moments being the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967, and the Woodstock Festival in upstate New York in 1969. Psychedelic drugs, especially LSD, are widely used medicinally, spiritually and recreationally throughout the late 1960s, and are popularized by Timothy Leary with his slogan “Turn on, tune in, drop out”. Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters also played a part in the role of “turning heads on”. Psychedelic influences the music, artwork and films of the decade, and a number of prominent musicians died of drug overdoses, there is a growing interest in Eastern religions and philosophy, and many attempts are made to form communes, which varied from supporting free love to religious Puritanism. I visited a commune because I was curious and found it was not how I wanted to live for there was not much privacy which I value above many things and I do not want to be told what to do, especially if it is against my own beliefs and values.

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1963/1964 GRADUATE FROM THE 9th GRADE

 

I graduate from the 9th grade at St. Edwards’ Junior High School at the age of 15 in 1964. St. Edward was established in 1904 and is located at 58 Hancock St., Pawtucket, R.I. This is where I was stable for 4 years: attend the same school, living in the same neighborhood, maintaining the same friendships and exploring the same city which has created a sense of continuity in my life. Now things around me seem to be falling apart and going downhill: the church, my country and the world; it is starting to no longer be a safe place for me and I experience it through my body, mind and spirit.

 

I am on the Junior Variety basketball team, we finish 2nd in the state losing to the giant black girls from Providence, one girl just bear hugged me to stop me from moving even though she knew she would foul out. One time we took a short cut across the railroad tracks, all of a sudden I felt a vibration on the metal quickly followed by the roar of the train, I could not see it, I froze as the whistle blew, luckily one of my team members pulled me off, we are plastered up against the brick wall, just as I feel the force of the wind from the locomotive press me like mortar into the brick, holding my breath, heart pounding, vision blurring, it finally passes.

 

My friend Anna and I were reading very risque paperbacks, I just got to read the first page of Lolita before it disappeared from my desk, we found many missing after lunch always thinking the boys were stealing them from us. On the last day of school the nun took us aside into the cloakroom and said “I had confiscated all those unfit books you two have been reading”. Anna responded with “It was you that was stealing our books! Can we have them back, please?” Sister resounded with a firm “NO”. We spend many hours locked in Anna‘s bedroom, which has 2 doors that had flimsy hook and eye latches held on by screws, her brother would pound on the door demanding “Let me in! I am going to tell dad! What are you doing in there?” Her family is very strict and controlling Italians causing her to rebel. We wear white lipstick, black eyeliner, using an eyelash curler, teasing our hair, lots of black clothes, we are called mondos. My friends in school asked me why I hang around such a wild girl; no one can understand because they have healthier, supportive families while we have abuse issues in common that connected us like nothing else can.

 

I am the last of my female friends to get my menses; I am envious at first except when the day finally arrives. I run home and go into the bathroom; mother is on the other side of the door asking, “Are you OK?” I answer “yes”. I was in there for some time and when I come out she hands me a pamphlet about “What every Girl Should Know”. She asks me, “Do you know what a cherry is?” “Yes” surprised by that question. “Do you have any questions?”, “No” is my response because I have spent a great deal of time at the library reading medical books about girls and boys bodies maturing. I was anxious and scared seeing the blood but my friends have shared their experiences which were somewhat comforting and preparatory. On Sunday, on my way to church I faint on the street, I feel my body swoon to the ground, I can’t speak, and darkness descended down on me. I come around to my sister calling my name. She begs me to go to church anyway because it is her way of getting out, not going to church and doing what she wants, I complied with her wishes. At church I pray hard for help.

 

I spend a lot of time in the beautiful Old Pawtucket Library going up and down the aisles reading whatever calls out to me. On the first floor in a back room is an ornate book stand holding the largest dictionary I have ever set eyes on, I spend lots of time in this spot as I lovingly turn its pages with great care and respect looking up whatever word is on my mind. I love to climb up the circular winding staircase holding tightly to the iron banister to the top floor, I pause half way up and look out the fancy dome windows to the wondrous sky outside, before proceeding to the second floor. This area is like an open loft overlooking the lower floor, the iron banister goes the whole length and the one time I stood against it the librarian yelled “Please do not hang out along the banister or run in the library”. There are rows upon rows of highly polished, floor to ceiling, wood bookcases protecting the millions of books on the shelves, I usually grab a book and sit on the floor reading, this is my sanctuary.

 

My sister and I continue our Saturdays at the movies, the ticket guy has put a stop to me getting in for 25 cents saying “You can’t still be 12 years old for all these years, and putting your hair in braids does not work anymore.” It is at the Leroy Theater that I start meeting boys and get my first kiss. We continued to walk all around Pawtucket, having fun shopping in the Downtown area, going to the factories to buy trinkets, fabric, thread and sewing supplies. In the summers we spent our days at the swimming pool where everyone hung out trying to stay cool and watching the smoke stacks billowing out all the garbage being burned, you can even smell it’s stench .

 

I go to the Hamlet bowling alley with my girlfriends to meet boys, we always make sure we are in a lane close to some cute boys, so that we can flirt and be noticed. I am really bad at bowling and my balls always seem to gravitate into the gutter, I am lucky if I get a score of 90, usually in the 70s. This is where I and 3 of my friends try cigarettes in the girls’ bathroom. We smoke the whole pack in a short period of time; I feel dizzy, queasy, coughing and chocking, which is a blessing for I never want to smoke again.

 

For many years I am very involved with the Catholic Church. It had its positive influence; for it gives me strength through difficult times and spiritual tools for coping. I am involved with the Catholic Junior Council at St. Mary’s Church where I go to learn square dancing and join others my age in group activities. I accidentally came upon the brothers involved in sexual activity in the basement of the church. The brothers push an unwilling girl into a small closet with another brother, while they are laughing at the situation. I was lucky it never happens to me, it affects me in many ways, I am fearful because they have threatened me if I tell. I am experiencing great confusion around sexual issues due to this and the sexual abuse. No place is safe not even the church.

 

It seems that in the United States many are still divided on issues of equality. In Alabama Governor Wallace’s “Segregation Forever” speech is given at his inauguration. President Kennedy proposes the Civil Rights Bill. The March for Jobs and Freedom, or more commonly known as the March on Washington, attracts over 200,000 people to Washington, D.C. With the people concentrated around the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. gives his I Have a Dream speech. I am fascinated by this cultural issue which I watch on TV, listen on the radio and even find a written copy to read, it’s so inspiring. I am saddened when Four Black girls are murdered attending Sunday school in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. A target because it was where there was regular civil rights meetings. As a result Riots erupt in Birmingham, and two more black youths are killed in the violence. I identify with those who are being suppressed, somehow it’s comforting knowing I am not the only, and feeling guilty because my situation is not as bad as theirs.

 

In the world around me it seems the major powers are jockeying for top positions. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. sign a treaty banning any atmospheric nuclear tests and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty takes effect. The worst thing that happens is that President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald and we are sent home from school early. I am in a state of shock and disbelief that such a great man is no longer with us that his family has to endure such brutality, I am glued to the television, and my grief is overwhelming. All hope is lost for peace. Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as President on Air Force One then he escalates American’s military involvement in the Vietnam War. Hatred seems to be the going theme.

 

I find refuge in music and the words found in the songs, I memories. In Rhode Island the Newport Folk Festival is going strong with popular folk singers Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger singing about what is going on, sharing thoughts and feelings about the way the world can be. The Beatles release “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which becomes a huge hit and a success in America. In a widely anticipated and publicized event, The Beatles arrive in America in February 1964, spearheading the British Invasion. Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and other Harvard alumni LSD researchers move to the Hitchcock’s estate in Millbrook, New York to continue their research into psychedelics. I search for understanding and a way out of the conflict.

 

I feel unsafe; in my home, surroundings, environment, church, my country and my world. My fears and anxieties are compounded and everywhere I go I am on the defense looking for the danger always lurking in the shadows putting me in a hyper-vigilant state; anxious and fearful, heart racing, poor concentration, fuzzy vision, weakness and shakiness. There is no place or no one to turn to, I am on my own. What am I to do? What do you do? What do you suggest?