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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2011/06/24
by Mike Gruenberg

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

In My Life

Walked into my neighborhood Starbucks last week and picked up my latte and since it was Tuesday, also picked up the “Pick of the Week” card that gives me a code to download a song for free from iTunes. The free song promotion sponsored by Starbucks and iTunes has allowed me to add more downloaded music to my song collection that is now resident on the iPod. Most of the time, the tune offered is by a new group hoping to garner public attention, but this time it was a song by group that was very familiar to me and a long-time favorite.

Much to my satisfaction, the tune offered was “Sad Song” by The Cars. Led by one of the true rock’n’roll characters, Ric Ocasek, the band that was born in Boston was literally an overnight sensation at the time when they released their first album in 1976. The group went on to sell 17 million copies of their first five LP’s which produced 13 Top 40 singles from those record albums. When Ocasek left the group in 1987, The Cars sadly came to an end after an 11 year run.

Lead singer and writer of all The Cars songs is Ric Ocasek. His performance style still is much like that of Roy Orbison in that he always remains relatively still as he plays and sings with only a glimmer of a faint smile as he goes through the Cars repertoire. It’s almost as though he doesn’t want to be out there on stage. One could say that Ric is the anti-Mick Jagger in performing style. No matter, the new song I downloaded is just as good as any of the previous Cars songs.

Twenty-four years have come and gone since the last Cars album and they sound as fresh and vibrant as ever, which got me to thinking about whom else is still rockin’ down the highway bringing my generation and new generations of fans great music. Turns out another 70’s band, Journey that had great success in the late 70’s and early 80’s from San Francisco is still out there performing. This is amazing considering that lead vocalist extraordinaire; Steve Perry left the group in the late 80’s. No one at the time believed that the group could survive without Steve. Apparently it has survived and thrived under the guidance of Neal Schon, who prior to being in Journey was a guitarist for Santana.

In 2007, Schon saw Filipino born Arnel Pineda on You Tube and recruited him for the Steve Perry lead vocals spot in the band. The band continues to perform and since Pineda joined Journey, they have played more than 100 shows and have grossed close to $80 million.

And the list of performers still working from my generation continues. Aretha Franklin, who recently underwent surgery, is back on the road. Sir Elton John toured Canada and seven of his concerts there were completely sold out. In March, Elton was in Pittsburgh at the Consol Energy Center and performed before the largest indoor concert crowd in the history of Pittsburgh musical events. Bob Dylan recently had his 70th birthday and toured China. Paul Simon performed recently in Washington, DC to a sell-out crowd. Keith Richards announced that his X-pensive Winos group is currently recording an album and probably will be out on the road before the next Rolling Stones tour. And Sir Paul McCartney will be appearing in concert at Yankee Stadium this summer.

Unfortunately, there is also sad news for my generation and every generation with the notification of the untimely passing of the Big Man, Clarence Clemons. As everyone knows, he was the tenor saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street band and an integral member of the group. As reported on the website, NJ.com, “Gov. Chris Christie ordered that flags be flown at half-staff on Thursday in honor of E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons in special recognition of his contributions to the state, people, and culture of New Jersey.” Also in the article, the Governor says “On a personal note, when I heard about the Big Man’s passing on Saturday night, I was struck with an overwhelming feeling that the days of my youth were now finally over.”

Don’t know if I agree with Governor Christie that days of our youth are over with the passing of a musical legend like Clarence. Chronologically, those days have been over for me and him for a long time. Sure, I can’t do the stuff I did in my teens and twenties, but I still love music, go to as many concerts as I can and listen religiously to Garage Rock on Sirius/XM satellite radio to keep up with the new bands. We still have our rock’n’roll heroes and heroines and as long as we think young and keep up with the new technology, we’ll be alright. As Pete Townshend and The Who said in “My Generation”:

People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ‘bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin’ ‘bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ‘bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ‘bout my generation)

This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

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