Songs From Another Time

Well, I admit it. I write angry and divisive things here from time to time. That simply tells us that I am, like most of us, an unwilling victim of the divisive rhetoric that has swamped our media, and yes, our music for at least the last 4 years.

I try to be a reasonable person, willing to listen to an opposing viewpoint… until lately, anyway. Now I listen like most people I know – I’m “listening” while formulating my own rebuttal at the same time. Sorry, but that’s not really listening. Real listening involves actually hearing what the other is saying, and if possible, reading their voice, their passion for what they are saying, their body language, their eyes… I mean really “getting it.”

Was listening to a few songs I grew up with, and instantly realized what a different time it was back then… how much softer and caring it was. Sure there was violence, sure there was a war, (Viet Nam) but it was the lyrics to the songs that helped me realize how different the times were then, how different we were, how different the lyrics to our hit tunes on the radio were.

I am so grateful to be born when I was born, to have lived and grown up in that period of time with all those countless wonderful tunes! For many of us around my age, 1945 to 1975 was a musically magical time. I remember feeling so complete, so fulfilled on many days back then. Even when days and life got occasionally difficult, there was still this universal feeling, in this country anyway, that we were okay, that everything was going to be all right.

Fill ‘Er Up

Oh, there were assholes back then too… lots of them. There were rude and inconsiderate people who delighted in making another’s life difficult. But that’s always been the case. I worked in a gas station for two years as a teenager. At 14, I was working at Dudley’s Garage in ’57 and had several people pull in for 3 or 4 gallons of gas, and go, “Check the oil. Oh, and wash the windshield. Check the tire pressure, too.”

I probably had a dozen or so of those, and quickly learned they were mostly jerks. The guy i’ve always remembered pulled up in a black Porche late one August afternoon. I was out front, and saw him take off his black driving gloves and place them on the dashboard. He got out, handed me a credit card, and quietly said, “Fill it up, please.” He was wearing a blue dress shirt and black slacks, a good-looking middle-aged guy.

When he signed the receipt, he handed me two dollars. “Thanks.” I watched him slide into the Porche, slip on his driving gloves and and zoom down the street, and out of town. I clearly remember thinking, “I want to be that guy!”

Not until Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On?” did our music begin to warn us of changing times, and that hit came out in ’71. Oh, there were some others that were released earlier for sure, but What’s Goin’ On was the biggie. “A Change Is Gonna Come,” written by Bob Dylan, was released by Sam Cooke in ’64. But even with some protest songs cropping up about the civil rights clashes in the South and Viet Nam, much of the country still enjoyed a peaceful glow, and the hits of the period reflected that.


Lyrics From A Gentler Age

Nature Boy radio hit in ’47, by Nat King Cole

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far, over land and sea

A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day, a magic day
He passed my way, and while we spoke
Of many things, fools and kings
This he said to me

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return”

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return”

Alfie – written in ’65, a radio hit in ’67 by Dionne Warwick.

What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?

And if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it’s wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above, Alfie
I know there’s something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in

I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you’ve missed you’re nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you’ll find love any day, Alfie

To my mind, these soft and thoughtful lyrics would simply not fly today. Am I wrong? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. All the music that B and I listen to around the house is usually from the ’60’s on back, with the exceptions of Earth, Wind & Fire, Kenny Loggins and Dianna Krall. The instrumentals, especially the big band pieces, nearly reek with positivity and innocence. And I’m constantly amused and impressed by how many of the old songs B can name and hum along with. It does this old heart good to be able to slip back to a simpler time, where my comfort zone still lies, even to this day.

Steve Hulse

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