I’m often reminded of how different the Boomer generation is from our parents and grandparents.
At 65, my grandparents looked and moved like old people. And while my parents were not old at that age — my mother, at 90, retains a surprising degree of youthful vigor — they would not have dreamed of so much we take for granted. We are close enough to our children that we could be good friends if we weren’t their parents. That was not thinkable with my parents nor those of my peers. We are gym rats, long-distance hikers, and inveterate travelers. No way for my folks. It wasn't about options. It was disinclination. And we still go to rock concerts, as we did when we were teenagers. The energy might be a notch below what it used to be, but merely a notch.
Here’s an email from my friend Tom about his recent experience at a Nick Mason concert in Toronto. Mason was the drummer of Pink Floyd, one of rock’s great interpreters of psychedelia. For Tom, this music is a lifelong love. His vivid email (below) isn’t just nostalgia. It’s also a resolute pushing against the traditional strictures of age. As he tells it, Boomers on the stage and in the audience were decidedly not imitating their parents. Nor feeling the least bit out of place.
Oddly, one of the coolest things of all about the evening was that it was four old guys and one slightly less-old guy who didn’t remotely try to hide their age. They were, as you might expect, all monster musicians, consummate professionals who were clearly having a blast.
On first blush, they looked so...uncool. Balding, paunchy, dressed so normally. But then the guitar players started moving with such swagger. I realized: he’s not trying to look cool. He is cool. He’s had 40 years of practice. He doesn’t have to try to be anything, because he’s a ferocious player and clearly revelling in the moment. All of them, so open, un-self-conscious, smiling and laughing. You couldn’t help but be won over.
And occasionally you’d look at the stage (we had insanely great seats, 10 rows back, dead center) and through the crazy, wonderful strobe lights and smoke, you could imagine those same guys, 40 or even 50 years younger, when youth was kind, and realize rock n' roll doesn’t have to be a young person’s game. Hey man, if you can still rock out at 75 and still mean it, if you still have your chops and have learned some lessons along the way, then all power to you, mate. Hell, all power to us.
Do not go gently if you don’t want to.