I’ve wondered what it’s like for kids today. My off-hand impression is it’s more difficult than it was for my generation. The complexity of societal and workplace norms has increased exponentially and goodwill, of the genuine kind has become scarce. Just as the media divides us, so do mainstream corporate cultures harboring Darwinian, dog eat dog climates, while they wish us all the best. So, for the foreseeable future, there’s no sign of things getting any easier for kids.
But today my focus is on the lighter side, and what we call the generation gap. You don’t hear the term as much as we used to when I was growing up. I’m a mid-term baby boomer, born in 1956.
I had a memory flashback last month of an event that, for me encapsulated the generation gap as it existed during the 1970s. It was during the holiday season. I had just turned 21 and when I heard that one of my idols, David Bowie was going to appear and sing with Bing Crosby. The contrasts were as extreme as they could be.
Bowie wasn’t just cutting edge; he was from the future. From a remote future where genders are merged and humans draw sustenance from light and sound. Bowie was so good that his following included portions of the older crowd, pre-punkers and even unabashed homophobes.
Aside from typical love songs, his writing was often philosophical and intellectually challenging, addressing major life themes, mysteries and even delicate social issues. With Rebel, Rebel, Bowie tackled what is a current hot-button issue involving pronouns and sexual identity with a practicality and conviction that gave that subject audience newfound hope and a potent rallying cry.
The Christmas special titled Merrie Olde Christmas was taped in London on September 11, 1977. By the time it aired, Crosby had left the world. As the story goes, on October 14, 1977, after golfing 18 holes during which he sang “Strangers in the Night” at the 9th hole after a request from another golfer in the group, Cosby suffered a major heart attack as he walked back to the clubhouse and died instantly.
Like Bowie, Bing Cosby was accomplished as both a singer and actor. Born in 1904, he had a silky-smooth voice and had played a number of groundbreaking roles in early cinema. at the tail end of a distinguished career and was a classic symbol of what we called The Establishment.
The image of these two was a powerful one at the time because it captured the spirit of our youth in contrast to our elders. It’s just as powerful today as a reminder of how we saw ourselves then. Not to mention the fact that predictably, these two made beautiful music together.
Check it out for yourself: