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Boomer Nostalgia Puzzling Over the Spirit of the Sixties

Published in ChicagoNow, January 12, 2016

Guess what I found in the attic Sunday morning? A 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle called Groovin’ Through the Sixties – A Close-up Look at a Far-out Decade!

Then I went to see Beautiful, the musical about Carole King largely focused on the songs she wrote with her lyricist and first husband, Gerry Goffin. Groovy indeed! The Carole King I knew was more the 70’s version who composed and performed her own songs, and the album I loved, Tapestry.

Much like the puzzle, the songs in Beautiful took me back to that decade when everything changed. Before I loved the Beach Boys, Beatles, and Rolling Stones, I was a Motown girl. And many of King’s early songs were written for artists with a Motown sound like the Shirelles (Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow), the Drifters (Up on the Roof), Aretha Franklin (Natural Woman), The Chiffons (One Fine Day), and astonishingly for her babysitter Little Eva (The Loco-Motion).

I must confess I really love this music but had no idea folks like Carole King were writing it. As a teen growing up in The Motor City, I saw so many of the Detroit Motown greats before they were famous: Little Stevie Wonder (yes, that’s what they called him back then), Smokey Robinson, The Four Tops, The Supremes, The Temptations… I really can’t remember all of the great performers I saw. The point is, Beautiful took me back much further in time than I had anticipated.

Then there was that crazy puzzle. Looking closely at the box cover was a real trip. There was a copy of the New York Times headline “Men Walk on the Moon,” a huge hand with the “v” for “peace” sign, and a Mama’s and Papa’s album cover. Some more esoteric references caught my eye. TV shows I loved like 77 Sunset Strip and Route 66 (mostly because the actors were so cute), and some I avoided like The Flying Nun (sorry Sally Fields – Yes, I really like you). Some other goodies: Tang, Aqua Net, the Pink Panther, and a transistor radio. And best of all, the only Batman I’ll ever recognize – Adam West – POW!

If you are still with me, chances are you are an aging Boomer or retiree. It was indeed a decade of change. I once created a list of things I actually said back then:

1. Never trust anyone over 30

2. Make love, not war

3. Give peace a chance.

4. Do your own thing

5. War is not healthy for children and other living things

6. Tell it like it is

7. Women belong in the house… and the Senate

8. Question authority

9. Power to the people

10. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem

OK, the first one doesn’t work for me anymore. It doesn’t even work for my kids. I guess back then we thought that we would be young forever. But the rest are still pretty decent.

Time to find the Motown station on my I HEART Radio app and start assembling the puzzle with my granddaughter, who actually enjoys doing them and is pretty good at it. I’m sure the assembled image won’t mean anything to her beyond a challenge. But I’m going to have a fun time watching the pieces of my youth come together. It will be a trip going back to the sixties for an aging Baby Boomer.


by Laurie Levy
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