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