As current and necessary as the Occupy Wall Street movement feels, it likewise conjures up a certain nostalgia for the protests characteristic of the late sixties, which in turn engenders conflicted feelings within me. As much as has changed in 40+ years since I was an idealistic teenager of the counterculture, my jaundiced eye isn't convinced these changes have been for the better. They certainly don't meet the promise we expected of change at the time. Then again, could they ever? Inversely, if anything hasn't changed it is precisely the constant need for the role of the citizenry to remain vigilant and to redress social injustice. Thus, I am in full solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and praise each and every foot soldier on the streets of America, even as I harbor deep concern that the very forces of social protest that once proved so effective in decades past have somehow become co-opted by the corporate forces they now oppose.
Whenever I desire change, I turn to the music that informed the activism of my youth, even as I understand that much of this music was engineered to cater to the spirit of the time with its lyrical emphasis on the role that recreational drug use played in altering entrenched attitudes. But it's the feeling that things can change that I have to hold on to, all these years later when—more than ever—dark forces seek to bankrupt the light. One of the predominant anthems of social change from the late '60s was "Crystal Blue Persuasion" by Tommy James & the Shondells and, listening to it this morning, the song struck me as one of those echoes that ripple out from one period of significant change to another. May the persuasive power of popular protest endure forever.
"Crystal Blue Persuasion" (1969)
"Crimson & Clover" (1968)
"I Think We're Alone Now" (1967)
"Gettin' Together" (1967)