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In a prior blog, 50 Years Later, I mentioned that 2017 was the year my high school graduating class celebrated its fiftieth reunion. Since that momentous occasion, many of my classmates and I have enjoyed a renewed awareness via social media postings. All in all, 2017 provided some great memories with some great people.
Recently, one of my former classmates posted a video on Facebook that showed three young girls dancing. The girl on the left rocked side-to-side and intermittently shuffled her feet. The girl on the right rhythmically moved her arms, hips, and feet in time with the music, but basically remained in one spot. The girl in the middle, however, thrust her arms in the air, hopped and spun to the music as if nobody was watching––or that she cared whether anybody was. The caption above and below the video read: THERE ARE 3 DANCE TYPES IN THE DISCO / WHICH ONE ARE YOU?
Considering that the woman who shared the video was the same girl whose Tarzan yell reverberated through the hallways fifty years ago––and made Carol Burnett envious––I suggested that her disco style had to resemble the center performer. Of course, she rebuked my comment by claiming that her disco moves mimicked the youngster on the left. Yea, right. And the polar bears live in Ecuador.
But the Facebook post––along with a little encouragement from the poster––got me to thinking about the music scene fifty years ago, and how it may have influenced the Class of ’67 over the years.
Most of the folks from my graduating class were born between late 1948 to early 1950, which made us part of the Baby Boomer era. But we bore another distinction. We also were a large part of the Rock generation because shortly after we had arrived in this world, Rock ’n’ Roll made its debut and never looked back.
Bill Haley and the Comets rocked around the clock when my classmates and I entered first grade. Throughout our elementary school years––when our parents allowed––we listened to an ever-expanding list of Rock’ Roll groups that dominated the record charts. Most of us––well, most of the boys, anyway––had yet to occupy the dance floor. In fourth grade, those who participated in a ballroom dance class cured that deficiency when we learned to Jitterbug. Meanwhile, our older siblings attended sock hops where they did the Stroll. Before my classmates and I departed grade school, dancing became easier with the advent of Twist. Except for two-stepping to the slow tunes, dance couples rarely touched again.
By the time my schoolmates and I departed junior high, the Motown sound, Soul, and West Coast Surf music had surged into the mix of Rock ’n’ Roll, Rhythm and Blues, and Rockabilly, and popularized everyone’s growing playlist. Although not forgotten, the Twist was upstaged by the Monkey, the Dog, the Frug, the Chicken, the Pony (sounds like a Chinese calendar), the Hully Gully, the Loco-motion, the Mashed Potato, the Watusi, plus a few more. My classmates and I accepted the latest sounds as our own, and tried all the latest dance moves––some of us with less success than others. But hey, the new dance crazes were ours, too.
Freshman year in high school coordinated with the British invasion. We all watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and became hooked. Dozens of U.K.-based groups followed. Someone singing Manfred Mann’s Do-Wah-Diddy-Diddy in the hallways was common between classes––sometimes in classes. Teen girls screamed and were madly in love with Paul McCartney. The guys thought about longer hair, and bought black pointy-toed shoes with elevated heels. We continued to dance apart and drove our parents nuts.
By 1967, Rock ‘n’ Roll evolved into more sub genres––upbeat Pop Rock, far-out Psychedelic and Acid Rock, and Sunshine Rock, a.k.a. Bubblegum Music. Then there was Janis Joplin–– JANIS! My classmates and I embraced the changes and rocked on until June, when graduation separated most of us as we ventured on to college, to blue-collar careers, or into the military, and the war in Viet Nam. In addition to becoming far out, our music also expressed anti-war, anti-authority political views. 1967 became a social turning point in our lives, and around the world. Although dancing never lost its attraction, protest marches became associated with our generation.
The mid-70s found most folks from the Class of ’67 settled into careers, married to the spouse of their dreams, and dealing with mortgage payments, utility bills, and children of their own. The music industry launched another fad––Disco! The unique beat, strobing lights, and the distinct choreography tempted each of us to mimic John Travolta’s performance in Saturday Night Fever. And I’d hazard a guess that most of my classmates at least gave it their best shot. I did––well, sorta. The Bump was fun.
The 80s and 90s brought Hair Bands, Heavy Metal, Pop Rock, and Rap, and our kids loved it. Although we often mimicked the disgruntled role our parents played so well when Rock’ Roll first emerged, we accepted the new trends as our children’s music, just as our parents had done with ours––except for Rap. The funny thing was, I enjoyed most of the new bands and their tunes––except for Rap. Still, the brand of Rock ’n’ Roll my classmates and I had grown up with remained in our minds and souls.
By the New Millennium, Rock had further transformed with the additions of Punk, Alternative / Progressive Rock, and even Christian Rock. Tunes from the ’60s and ’70s had morphed into Classic Rock. Oddly enough, our children knew (and still know) many of the songs from our era, as well as their own. Many stores, doctors, dentists, and other professional offices regularly play Classic Rock through their overhead speaker systems. Like our music, the Class of ’67 has endured. Regardless of where life may have taken us, we continue to Rock on.
**Author’s photo of the Doobie Brothers guitarist, Tom Johnston.