The Beatles made the soundtrack for my early childhood. I can remember songs like She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand playing while I toddled around Grandma Daisy’s yard. Her daughters (my aunts) were teenagers in the 60s, and along with various cousins of a similar age they taught me about the world. Who would you believe as a child – grownups like your parents or teenagers like your cousins?
I was in seventh grade in 1972. My algebra teacher was Mrs Nixon, wife of Edward Nixon (the president’s younger brother). At the start of the year, I was intrigued by the band Bread, a schmaltzy early 70s pop-rock band. Hey – I outgrew them, OK? In the Fall, I moved on to Chicago – at the time, a remarkable blend of Hendrixy rock and jazzy Motown, complete with strongly political tunes like A Song For Richard And His Friends. If Chicago makes you think of Color My World – try listening to the song in context as part of Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon, performed live on Chicago at Carnegie Hall. It was a few years later that they seemed to turn irrevocably pop. Probably a bubble gum overdose…
By the early Spring of 1973, my tastes had moved on: Led Zeppelin was all I wanted to hear. I knew nothing of the drugs and alcohol that Hard Rock entailed, didn’t understand whatever bits of radical politics made their way into the music. But I had managed to grow my hair long (because I hated getting haircuts). I remember arguing with my 7th grade music appreciation teacher about whether bands like Led Zeppelin played actual music (he thought it was mere noise, and wanted us to learn to recognize cellos and oboes).
Then came the Grateful Dead. My aunt (only a few years older than me) was staying with my Mom, finishing high school. She saw me looking at her 8-track of Now, of course, the kids of rockers have become film makers (Justin Kreutzman), painters (Trixie Garcia), and so on. So there I was, a teen in the 70s listening to the music of the 60s.
I learned about pot, and acid, and Timothy Leary. I read Ken Kesey’s novels and the Electric Koolaid Acid Test. I tried to read stuff by Baba Ram Dass, read stuff by Jack Kerouac. Mostly, I was into the music – played guitar (badly for many years, then eventually quite well), went to concerts, bought records.
What else happened in the 60s? Well, I know that the civil rights struggle took place – it blurs together with folk music and the free speech movement and the anti-war movement. Berkeley… I was more into San Francisco, I guess. I thought I was a Hippie.
My cousin lived on an Oregon commune for a while. Rather, he lived near an Oregon commune and hung with some of the folks. He was also, for a while, a leather craftsman – so I started making leather belts, too.
I guess I thought I believed in free love, or at least promiscuity. Remember, I came of age back when genital herpes was the most terrible thing that could befall you. AIDS changed that in the later 80s and into the 90s, at least for most straight Americans. If they’ve got it yet, that is. And I know what birth control and a concerted political movement did for women – provided opportunities and control over their own lives unrivaled in most other cultures and times.
What about health care? I guess I think of the 60s and 70s as Marcus Welby years. Doctor Kildare, maybe. I remember watching shows like Emergency and the soap opera General Hospital. Doctors were very conservative and uniformly wealthy, of course. The idea of people being uninsured or not having access to care never crossed my radar.
And there weren’t any homeless people, except for bums and tramps.
Hippies dropped out and stayed dropped out. Right? Or maybe dallied with Hippiedom, but went straight again after awhile. I never thought much about some sort of legacy, of some influence of the 60s on straight society. I mean, of course our society has loosened up sexually and musically. But how else have the 60s affected modern society, here in the new millennium?
And in particular, is there a legacy from the 60s in health care? Are doctors and PAs and NPs different now? We do have medical school classes on spirituality in medicine, but everyone knows it is just a token session here and there on the touchy-feely stuff. The focus is still anatomy, and biochemistry, and golf. Maybe it is just the spread of CT scanners and MRI scanners, of bone marrow transplantation and face transplants that has changed things.
So do I know much about the 60s? Maybe I’d better read up on things…