I am not particularly nostalgic.
Not that I don't have a memory or feelings about the past. In fact, I remember pretty much everything about my life since I was around two. But, I don't really like to dwell on the past, and I was already weary of the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination weeks before yesterday.
I do recall, vividly, that I was in Mr. Singer's third period Algebra class. Mr. Singer, and Miss Kramer, who taught French at Sam Brannan Jr. High, were an item.
Several times a week, Mr. Singer would give us some problems and excuse himself to the office when in reality he was meeting Miss Kramer in the Teacher's Lounge for a smoke.
On November 22, 1963, the seven minute cigarette was cut short, and Mr. Singer returned to class and informed us the president had been killed.
Though I was not that interested in politics then, I certainly knew a lot about the president. My mother had campaigned for him, and was another one of those mothers of the 60's who wanted to wear what Jackie wore, and do what Jackie did.
In those days, though, it was movies, books, baseball, and music that really had my passion: something that has not really changed since, though I have added a few things.
Still, I was more than aware of the Civil Rights Movement, and the Free Speech Movement, and the other social stirrings that had begun to grab our attention.
So, though America sort of portends our innocence was lost the day the president died, the seeds were already sown.
As I was working through the day yesterday, one of the local radio stations--KFOG--did their "10-@-10" feature, where at 10 AM they play ten songs from a particular year.
Well, on the Kennedy anniversary, of course the year was indeed 1963, and, as I listened--and I could still remember virtually all the words--it did indeed surprise me just how much the music of the time was indeed a harbinger.
In fact, and without trying to be nostalgic, here they are, in order, with a little commentary.
- Blowin' in the Wind (Bob Dylan)--A fitting opener, with a tune by the most influential song-writer and poet of our time.
- Surfer Girl (Beach Boys)--The California surf band hit their peak with this cut from the album of the same name. But, as the times were changing, so was the music, and soon the Beach Boys would no longer be the dominant pop band.
- Busted (Ray Charles)--Along with James Brown, Charles was at the forefront of cross-over in '63, just ahead of Motown (keep reading).
- He's So Fine (Chiffons)--A total major #1 hit, and, in the odd way this list is inter-related, remember that George Harrison mimicked it with "My Sweet Lord."
- I Want to Hold Your Hand (Beatles)--The fab four ushered Brit Pop into America, and as much so as Dylan, nothing else would ever be the same.
- Wipe Out (Surfaris): Iconic surf song with iconic drum solo.
- Fingertips, Part II (Little Stevie Wonder)--He was just 13 when this song--his first breakthrough--hit the radio waves. Hence, he really was still "Little" Stevie Wonder. And, Stevie's second album was called "A Tribute to Uncle Ray." As in Charles.
- Stoned (Rollingstones)--They seemed so different from the Beatles, and yet this instrumental was the B-side to the Stones first single, "I Wanna Be Your Man."
- Up on the Roof (The Drifters)--A great song from a great group, and penned by Gerry Goffin, and his wife and partner of the time, Carole King. They were writing out of the Brill Building, with Lieber and Stoller and Neil Sedaka and the whole bunch.
- Puff the Magic Dragon (Peter, Paul, and Mary)--Fitting finale, penned by the same Bob Dylan who led off the set. Wonder if the times were changing? Well, ever say the title of the tune to yourself as "Puff, the magic drag, in"?
Like I said, change was upon us, everywhere.
And, while I think it is a specious to ask how different the world would be had Kennedy--in fact either of the brothers--lived, just like it is silly to wonder what Hendrix or Buddy Holly or Ernie Davis or any icon who left us too early not done so.
For me, it is better to appreciate the gifts they gave us while they were alive.