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The Numinosum Blog
40 years ago yesterday was the start of the Woodstock Festival and reading and thinking about it sparked other thoughts about another icon of the 60s, the Beatles and the hoopla surrounding the upcoming release of remastered Beatles albums in September. And I realized something, which I've felt for sometime now, but only manifested into concrete form during my contemplations:
I'm not a fan of the Beatles or of Woodstock.
Now before I hear classic cries of heresy that usually accompany displeasure of something canonical ("how can you not like the Beatles?", "are you crazy?", "you have no taste in music", etc.), my lack of enthusiasm for the Beatles and Woodstock is not for lack of understanding (I guess some WOULD say I lack understanding if I don't like them). I have seen the Woodstock DVD and listened to many Beatles songs over the years (both originals and arrangements--I have the Basie on Beetles vinyl somewhere and a Wes Montgomery rendition of "A Day in the Life"). I have read about both and yes, I get that the Beatles revolutionized recording techniques and influenced all popular songcraft (and celebrity) and yes I get Woodstock marked a sort of milestone of cultural and musical convergence of (some of) the 196o's themes: hippies, war, peace, love, rock and roll.
It's just that they don't move me. Well, at least not in the same way that they seem to move all the arbiters of cultural relevance. Don't get me wrong, I do respect the Beatles and even like some songs (especially from Sgt. Pepper's; also this past winter on the radio I listened intently to The Beatles White Album Listening Party and was fascinated by some of what I heard and certainly plan to add that album to my collection when the remaster comes out). And with Woodstock, while really enjoying Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Joe Cocker among other performances on the concert film, when I start to hear people talk about their recollections of being at Woodstock as some incredible moment!, my eyes start to glaze over like when people say, "ah, back in the day, New York in the _____'s, that was the real New York" or "you should'a been at Ebbets Field". I feel like that women in the Wrigley's commercial who while looking for another piece of gum misses "the moment".
Sure, hearing about "back in the day" can be interesting and fascinating, but it can also sometimes strike me as a bit distant and off-putting. I did this, lived through this, heard this...and you didn't. In some ways it doesn't value the present, always looking back to a (real or imagined) "better time" which I guess we are all guilty of at times.
So still knowing all that I do about Woodstock and the Beatles, hearing and seeing what I've seen and heard, I always come back to, what's the big deal? It's like that line about Elvis in Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" (comes 2:38 in video), and I paraphrase (and cleaning it up) here: a hero to most, don't mean anything to me. Writer John Murph on The Root has an interesting article looking at Woodstock from a different perspective but for me as a rational, intellectual person (regardless of personal background), shouldn't the adoration of the Beatles and Woodstock be up there like other (supposed) high cultural totems: French cinema from the 60's, Ginsburg, Seinfeld, Ellison, Radiohead, Duke Ellington?
We've all met or dated people where you do like each other but you're missing that thing, that spark, that "YES YES YES YES YES YES" moment in your brain, of real emotional (or physical) connection with another. For me, I think the Beatles and Woodstock will always be that respected acquaintance I'll see at a distance or run across every so often, but whom, for me, there is no there there. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
On an entirely different subject, Friday was Magic Johnson's 50th birthday and as Roy S. Johnson writes on his Yahoo Sports Blog, "I never thought I'd see this celebration". Magic was one of my favorites players growing up. I remember seeing the Michigan State (Magic)-Indiana State (Larry Bird) dual, Magic's rookie season NBA Final's heroics ("back in the day"--see even I can't get away from it!--the broadcast from the West Coast came on at 10 or 11pm Eastern Standard Time-can't imagine THAT happening now), playoff battles with the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, and later the Chicago Bulls, and of course, his announcement of HIV and early retirement. As Roy Johnson points out, with all of his post-NBA business dealings, Magic is one of the few athletes to make more money in retirement than during his playing days.
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 6:58 AM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.