Today I spent my evening in Greenwich Village, an area in downtown Manhattan that used to be haven for the musicians in the yesteryears. I go to Bleecker street often but today I was scouring for few signs- the signs of presence of the activism of 1960s. Greenwich village was famous for its musicians and political activism,its cafes, live music performances. Unfortunately, gaslight cafe couldn’t stand the test of the time. Cafe wha is not the same as it used to be but its still there.I have this (bad) habit of reading about things and places on internet and such unnecessary researches hog my time.
I knew that cafe wha is associated with many famous names but that list on internet was overshadowed by Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix wasn’t mentioned a lot for he passed away young but Dylan like a Victoria Secret’s advertisement was overwhelmingly everywhere.
60s wasn’t the era only of free love but also of the social and political activism. The term generation gap was coined in those years for there was a lot of difference between the thought process of the youths and their parent’s who had seen the perils of the world war. It didn’t mean that the youths had myopic visions or were in complete disillusionment. Greenwich village in NY was the incubation center of the revolutionary ideas that governed the political and economic facade during those years and those ideas found their ways resonating in the songs that those multi talented artists wrote. Each of the artist was presenting his/her thoughts in the form a song be it on civil rights, Vietnam war, crony capitalism, nepotism or sycophancy.The idealist generation of 60s purported to reject the materialism and bolstered movements that forced Nixon to step down.Not only music but food also was affected as many people turned towards non violence and vegan-ism.
The weavers were quite popular in the era for they brought the folklore and music not only to the big apple but also on the int’l podium. Thanks to McCarthyism that weavers were blacklisted under HUAC (House Un-American Activities) ,Pete Seeger asked correctly “what the hell is an American activity, what is the definition” when he was also booked under HUAC and his name appeared in the red channel magazine floated by oppressive forces. That was the era of the change Seeger, Woody Guthrie,Harry Chapin, Dylan, Tom Paxton etc were few names.Everyone was famous for his own type of work.
I have nothing against Bob Dylan; When I listened to “A hard rain’s A-gonna fall” for the first time after more than 50 years it surfaced, I was en-rapt and enthralled. He definitely is talented but somehow I feel that he not only knew how to write resonating songs but also how to sell them. He was able to create an image and kept it afloat. He did join the artists of protest music but with the banishment of many under HUAC, he definitely got an advantage.None of his songs are for Vietnam war but I am not sure why and how people have linked the two. He didn’t go to the famous Selma march in which everyone was chanting the Dylan’s hymn “The times are A- changing”. He did say in one of the award ceremony which he attended in an inebriated state that he no longer wants to write songs on people and doesn’t wishes to be spokesperson. He choose his next genre of rock and roll and remain stuck to it.He started “playing it safe”. And I personally have started believing that when the competition is tough then one has to play safe to soar and be relevant. I won’t say that he was an opportunist who grabbed the hot selling cake of folk music to open his own shop but he wasn’t exactly the same revolutionary that media propagates him to be. He was from the main land Minnesota and came to NY to test his destiny and he succeeded splendidly. The American dream – from rags to riches came true and many benefited from the same directly or indirectly.