CHARLOTTE, NC, September 24, 2017 – When did Americans become so angry? It’s a question I think about often these days as the panorama of news streams across television screens and blares out of radios across the country.
This morning I awoke with the knowledge that another year had passed. I am celebrating the anniversary of my birth once again, knowing all to well that given my circumstances with ALS I have beaten the “over-under” and hope that the coming year will serve to extend that record.
As part of the reflections on my past, I took my family to hear the Kingston Trio on Friday night. My son and daughter and their spouses were the only people in the audience without gray hair, but no matter.
They were apprehensive about the performance. It would be music with which they were unfamiliar with but something deep down inside told me they would enjoy the show once they saw it.
The 60s was an ugly decade, filled with turmoil and strife. It was not a pleasant time in which to grow with the assassinations of two Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, the Cuban Missile Crisis, racial riots in the streets, National Guard troops on college campuses, the horrors of Vietnam, soldiers returning home from foreign wars to be chastised by an ungrateful nation and the psychedelic drug culture to mention a few.
But for me, and many of my high school and college friends, there was a saving grace that managed to permeate the chaos. It was called Folk Music and though it was only a fad for about a decade, the songs reminded us of so many of the good things we seemed to be losing in our national growing pains.
In the 60s, a musical variety television show on ABC called “Hootenanny” became highly popular for a brief period of time. The program highlighted folk singers and groups such as The Chad Mitchell Trio, The Brothers Four, The New Christy Minstrels, The Limeliters and The Kingston Trio to name a few. There was even a comedian named Woody Allen who did stand-up routines from time to time.
There was even a comedian named Woody Allen who did stand-up routines from time to time.
Peering back to the past, folk music, and the people who sang the songs, all shared an idealism about our country and what made it great. That was the unifying thread that made it work. It came along at just the right
It came along at just the right time when it was so desperately needed.
Though the music ran the gamut of telling stories through songs such as “Tom Dooley” and “The Reuben James” to satires about the funeral business and the John Birch Society to gentle ballads like “Greenfields” and “Blowin in the Wind” to protest songs such as “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have all the Flowers Gone”, the thing that I recall is there was no anger…or, at least, if there was, it was gentle, introspective and questioning rather than invasive.
Folk music was Americana filling the air with banjos and guitars. It was idealistic, naive, fresh, energetic and hopeful rather than vicious. In its own way, groups like the Kingston Trio represented a nation that overcame a multitude of hardships as a social experiment that became the envy of the world.
It was a medium that unleashed the entrepreneurial spirit we share as Americans thanks to our love of freedom that has been the hallmark of our nation since its inception.
But one thing folk music was not was vengeful or vindictive. Rather it was spirited and lively, representing the best of who we are as a nation and putting it into words and music.
We could agree to disagree without animus and rancor.
As an example of the fun and humor of that marvelous period of American history where music was the balm that soothed the turmoil of the times, listen to a song by the Kingston Trio called “To Morrow” and see if you can keep up.
If you want to follow along the adaptation by Bob Gibson here are the first few lines to whet your appetite. Click on the link above to get the full set of lyrics.
“I started on a journey about a year ago to a little town called Morrow in the State of Ohio.
I’ve never been much of a traveler, and I really didn’t know that Morrow was the hardest place I’d ever try to go.
So I went down to the station for my ticket and applied for tips regarding Morrow not expecting to beguiled.
Said I, ‘My friend, I’d like to go to Morrow and return no later than tomorrow for I haven’t time to burn’
“Said he to me, ‘Now let me see if I have heard you right. You’d like to go to Morrow and return tomorrow night.
“You should have gone to Morrow yesterday and back today for the train that goes to Morrow is a mile upon it’s way.'”
This clever ditty filled with wordplay and the whimsicality of American folklore epitomizes the joy that bygone era.
Would that it could return and Americans could smile again with a renewed sense of humor.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people, and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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