Jewish World Review Dec. 16, 2003 / 21 Kislev, 5764

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Pledge rock


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Watching television the other night, I stumbled across a rather perplexing event -a public television fundraising concert called "This Land Is Our Land: The Folk Rock Years II." I wouldn't have thought there was enough meat on the bones of folk rock for one event, much less two.


Co-hosted by Michelle Phillips, Judy Collins, and its spunky producer, T.J. Lubinsky, the show offered Trini Lopez, Tom Paxton, Scott McKenzie, the Lovin' Spoonful, the Seekers, and the Hillside Singers, among others. I guess they're folk rock. What does that mean anyway? I didn't know then, and I don't know now. Bob Dylan went electric. I understand that. After that, frankly, it's just an over amplified blur, with feedback.


So that perplexed me. And the shots of the audience in attendance perplexed me too. With a lineup that included not only Tom Paxton, but Tommy Makem and Erik Darling, wouldn't you expect to see a few old folkies in the crowd? You know, painfully thin women in black with long flowing gray hair, some guys with goatees wearing those weird little cordurory folk singer hats? No. The people in the audience, with no exceptions, looked like assistant managers of fast food restaurants. Yet they were singing along with "If you're going to San Francisco be sure to wear some flowers in their hair," as if they'd dropped acid with Ken Kesey himself. Who were these people?


And back at the pledge lines, who were THOSE people? Well, there was T.J. Lubinsky himself, a very enthusiastic Jersey lad, who has carved a niche for himself, doing these promotional shows. Under the rubric of "American Soundtrack," he has put together du-wop shows and rock shows, among others, all showcasing the near-forgotten voices of boomer youth, some of them literally at death's door. It's nice to give these people another moment in the sun, but how honorable is this really?


To trot them out one after the other, like they were on Ed Sullivan, well, it's attention I suppose, but there is such a thing as damning with faint praise. If "Wear Some Flowers in your Hair" and "Georgy Girl" and "I'd Like to Teach the World to sing" and "You know that was the last thing on my mind" all have the same weight, well, what is gravity?


Also on the pledge line were nameless enthusiastic bureaucrats manning the phones, urging us to pledge. Who are THESE people? They acted like cult members, attracted to an ideology beyond anybody's ken. Something to do with new age children's music, and getting wealthy, and learning how to play piano, and to meditate. But what, pray tell, does this have to do with public television?


Whatever. I liked seeing Tom Paxton again. And I still know all the words to "Georgy Girl." Is that a blessing, or a curse? Call now and let me know. Operators are standing by.

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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2003, Ian Shoales