When I was a kid, it was the World War I guys who were the old men. The middle-aged men were the World War II generation, and all the priests seemed to come from Ireland. Today all the World War I guys are gone, few of the World War II generation remain, and if you manage to find a priest born on the Emerald Isle, he is likely a very old man.
Now it’s our turn. The Boomer generation — those of us born between the end of the Second World War and the early 1960s — is entering into twilight. We do not like it.
Given that we represent one of the largest demographic blocks in the history of demographics, we’ve had an outsized influence on culture. In the end, this has been unhealthy.
The Boomers bloomed during a “perfect” storm, a triangulation of the sexual revolution, economic prosperity, and being raised by a generation that was either too damaged by the effects of war or too afraid that their children would suffer deprivation like they did in the Great Depression.
Not everything was cushy — we did have a very bloody and controversial war. But many of us were too young to serve in Vietnam, and the closest we came to Cold War reality was crawling under our school desks on the last Friday of every month to the dulcet tones of an air raid siren.
The passing of David Crosby, one of the founding members of two Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame bands, the Byrds, and Crosby, Stills and Nash, has social media and “old fashioned” media abuzz about his legacy. He was among the many musical icons of our generation.
The chatter among Boomers about his life and influence made me think of a quote from a nearly forgotten French Catholic thinker, Charles Peguy: “Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics.”
David Crosby wrote theme songs for the cultural upheaval and rejection of biblical norms that the Boomers ushered in. The free love and sexual license espoused by the music makers of his generation are now codified in law. The drug culture that haunted Crosby throughout his life is now responsible for cannabis dispensaries being as prevalent in strip malls as donut shops. The Flower Power Generation has left its mark.
Resistance to some of these new realities often brings scorn. Resistance to others has brought loss of jobs, businesses, and even a threat to liberty. The navel gazing “mysticism” of the Boomer generation that seemed so free and passive has teeth in its manifestation as mainline culture today.
There are some who might argue that it’s been better to reject not only the lifestyles these Baby Boomer performers heartily endorsed, but their music as well. Granted, I have put aside some of the more overtly “messaged” songs. But to throw the baby out with the bathwater did not make sense to me then, and nor does it now. Catholics are taught to hate the sin but love the sinner. I think this means that I can love an artist and resist the destructive tendencies they endorsed.
If we were to self-censor our popular culture artistic tastes based on the personal lives of the men and women who produce them, our film libraries, book shelves, and Spotify radio stations would be deserts.
The death of a ’60s era pop star is cause for reflection. Even as “Less than Greatest Generation” readies for its final act, its impact on the culture will endure for much longer. So thanks, David Crosby, for your beautiful music — but not so much for everything else that came with it.