Earlier this month I stopped at the Green Knoll Grill. A friend was playing bass that night for Little Jimmy and the Starlites, a very good local band specializing in classic 50s-70s rock. There was a sizable crowd for the venue and a fairly enthusiastic one too, though naturally it was mostly older – not exclusively by any means, but mostly. I’m fully aware I fit the demographic, but it still looks funny to me to see gray-haired folks rocking out on the dance floor.
Even though I hadn’t heard many of the songs on the play list in years – in decades for a few – there were none to which I didn’t know the lyrics. The popular songs of our youth become entrenched in our psyches without any conscious attempt on our part to install them there. They not only provide a soundtrack to our lives but influence our perspective in ways of which we scarcely are aware until one evokes a strong emotion in us, often to the puzzlement of our older and younger companions. Music we encounter later in life can leave its mark too, especially if it is associated with some significant event or phase in our lives, but it never embeds itself in quite the same way as what entered our ears between the ages of 10 and 25. You can tell a lot about the quirks of a generation by listening to its music.
It should come as no surprise that we often feel an attachment (however one-sided) to the musicians/songsters as well as the songs. Back in January 2014 when Phil Everly died I commented about popular songs, “They are so interconnected with our life histories that when the artists who performed them die, we often feel the loss as a personal one.” All too frequently this happens when the performers are young (27 is a notoriously difficult age to survive), but in a way it is more unsettling when they begin to fall away at more natural ages: in the past year the departed include Joe Cocker (70), Paul Revere (76), Tommy Ramone (65), Johnny Winter (70), among others. Yes, I know the commonplace response is to say, “nowadays that’s young,” but in truth it isn’t. The deaths might well have been “too soon” by the way we like to reckon things, but the people were not really young. Neither are those of us whom they influenced, as we can’t help but be aware.
The latest to leave us is Lesley Gore (68) who began to chart when I was 10 (she was just 17) and who was a regular presence on radios and record players for the next decade. I’ll leave the commentary about her music and her life to others: there is quite a lot of that for a variety of reasons (many of them only tangentially related to her pop lyrics and sound), and there is little I can or wish to add. However, on a personal level, several of her songs are definitely entrenched in my mind in the way described above, and I’m glad they are. While news of her passing reminds me of my age, hearing her songs definitely makes me feel young. Thanks for that, Lesley.
Lesley infatuated Robin when she was Catwoman’s sidekick in the “That Darn Catwoman” episode of Batman