From: Al Paffrath
First, before someone issues a contract on me, I’m not tired of Baby Boomers, I’m tired of the phrase. I used it here in the title so someone would be irritated enough to read this and, when it ends, I’m certain that a common reaction of many, especially those in Generation X, as well as the Millennials, will be “this bozo needs to get a life.” The term “Baby Boomer” ranks among the most overused, non-inclusive and tiresome phrases developed over the latter years of the 20th Century. According to those who invented the description, it begins in 1946 and extends into 1964, yet there is little difference, if any, between those born in 1946 and those born in, say, 1941, or even those born in the late 1930s. There is one, and only one, major difference that distinguishes the “generation” born between the late 1930s and the early 1960s from those born before, and that overwhelming driving force is rock and roll. I, therefore, prefer the term “The First American Rock & Roll Generation,” to the simple, but inaccurate “Baby Boomers.” And what are the differences between that generation and the one before it, which has been referred to as “The Greatest Generation”?
Were there political differences between the previous generation and the First American Rock & Roll Generation? Not really, though, by the late 1960s, members of the latter group were noticeably more politically active during their younger years than were those who came before them at those same ages. Politics, therefore, did not really separate the two … the Vietnam War did. How about their views on Civil Rights? Yes, there was a difference there, not really in their views, but in their actions. Many, if not most, of those in the previous generation viewed racial discrimination with the same negative vibe as did the First American Rock & Roll Generation, but the true activism didn’t occur until the First American Rock & Rollers were coming of age.
That leaves rock and roll. I believe that rock and roll contributed more to integration than any Civil Rights march or legislative action, both coming close to a decade after the explosion of rock and roll. There were individual events … Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, the Little Rock Nine … that made waves nationally, but did not have the immediate effect brought on by rock and roll. There are stories about rock and roll groups or singers doing concerts in 1955 to segregated audiences … whites on the ground floor, blacks in the balcony … then returning to the same venue in 1956 to find whites and blacks sitting together. This brought on a natural integration within the group the anti-segregation forces would have to change first — America’s youth. Those kids who danced to “Rock Around the Clock” and “Roll Over Beethoven” were on the cutting edge of a new youth culture, and were certainly born well before 1946.
Getting back to the point, the term “Baby Boomer” excludes a large part of the population that actually formed the basis, the ground floor, of what was to become known collectively as the “Baby Boom Generation.” Born in 1945, I’m one of those who isn’t truly recognized as a Boomer, so I’m naturally going to protest the phrase. In truth, many of those who spearheaded the teenage movement were born before 1946, and not only shared the same experiences as Boomers but, in many cases, ignited them. Grace Slick, the legendary member of Jefferson Airplane, is often sited as the quintessential personality of the late ‘60s — the very epicenter of what the Baby Boomers were all about. She was born in 1939. Then there’s Neil Young, John Fogerty, and Eric Clapton (all 1945), John Lennon (1940), Joni Mitchell (1943), Bob Dylan (1941), and Mick Jagger (1943).
What, then, is my point here? Where is my rambling really going? My problem isn’t with the Baby Boomer generation, but in being officially excluded from it. I want to be part of what those born in 1946 and beyond have accomplished. Therefore, when talking about or referring to the Baby Boomers, I’m saying we pre-Boomers should be in the same cultural group, for what it’s worth, as those born from 1946 forward. Let’s push the dateline back to the late 1930s and call all of us the First American Rock & Roll Generation, so I, along with millions of others, can feel part of it before we all check out. Oh yes, concerning that little music festival that took place upstate New York 50 years ago this summer, two of the organizers were born in 1942, one in 1944, and one in 1945. Here’s to the First American Rock & Roll Generation!