The Best of Talking 'Bout My Generation: --------The Baby Boomer Experience -------- (1946 to Today)

Articles, Blog Posts, Podcasts, Webcasts, Lectures, Presentations, Talks , and Tours

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Talking ‘Bout My Generation: Talks/Lectures/Presentations Available for Any Group, Organization, or Venue

Talks from my book Come Together

Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On: How Did Rock and Roll Come to Be?

  • 12 Changes That Paved the Way for the Rock and Roll of the 50s
  • 9 Musical Styles That Were Mixed and Merged to Create a New Type of Music Called Rock and Roll
  • What Was the 1st Rock and Roll Record

Setting the Stage for the Beatles

  • Rockin’ ‘Round the Clock: DJ Alan Freed, the combo band Bill Haley and His Comets, and the movie Blackboard Jungle ignite a rock and roll explosion
  • The King and Court: Elvis and 6 other rock and roll pioneers who greatly influenced the Beatles
  • A New Frontier: The music of the Kennedy years (1960 to 1963)

From Rock and Roll to Rock: A 6-year musical road trip from Liverpool to Woodstock

  • 1964 – The Beatles and the Music of the British Invasion
  • 1965 – With Rubber Soul, The Beatles, Under the Influence of Bob Dylan and Pot, Create Song Lyrics with More Mature Meanings
  • 1966 – Garage Rock Rules, but Albums like the Beatles’ Revolver Begin Making LPs More Important Than 45 Singles
  • 1967 – With the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s as Its Soundtrack, a Summer of Love Gives Birth to Psychedelic Rock and the Hippie Lifestyle
  • 1968 – The Music of the Beatles, the Stones, and Others Reflect Turbulent Times
  • 1969 – The Beatles Stay Home But from Atlantic Pop to Woodstock to the Isle of Wright to Altamont, It’s a Year of the Big Music Festival

Audio Video Rock Talks from Our Rock and Pop Culture Division – Rock of Agers Icons

The Bands

  • Here, There, and Everywhere: How the World Would Be Much Different Without the Influences of the Beatles
  • What a Drag It Is Getting Old: What the Rolling Stones Can Teach All of Us About Aging
  • A Traveling Show of Deadheads and Tie-Dye: The Radical, Yet Highly Successful Business Plan of the Grateful Dead

Individual Artists

  • The Answer Is Blowin’ in the Wind: The Great Protest Anthems of Bob Dylan
  • Is a Dream a Lie If It Don’t Come True or Is It Something Worse: Bruce Springsteen and the Unfilled Promise of the American Dream
  • Rebel, Rebel: David Bowie Drives GlamRock, Androgyny, and Gay Life Style

Talking ‘ Bout My Generation Podcasts/ Webcasts Planned for 2021

Podcasts

  • Price Points – Talking About People, Places, Things, and Ideas That Interest Me Today as a Boomer in My Late 60s
  • Just Take Those Old Records Off the Shelf: The Music of the JFK Years (1960 to 1963)
  • Bullet Points: Exploring the Effects of Gun Violence in America with Co-Host Award-Winning Florida Educator Sarah Lerner
  • Democracy in Danger

Webcasts

  • The Boomer Experience: Pop Goes the Culture: Checking Back on the New, the Cool, the Hep, the Hip, and the Groovy of the Initial Decades of the Baby Boom Era
  • Play Free Bird – The Sounds of the70s: The Great Artists, Albums and Singles of the 1st Full Era of Classic Rock 
  • Divided We Stand (weekly on-line internet show hosted by NJ Educator Brian Weinstein with me as co-host)

Sting, Paul Simon Sing Late into the Evening

This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC — March 13, 2014

When you think of a partner for Paul Simon, you probably see Art Garfunkel. You probably don’t consider Sting. But tonight at the Verizon Center, Simon teamed with Sting to perform more than 25 songs that they had made individually part of the rock and roll discography.

After the duo played a 3-song opening – “Brand New Day,” “Boy in the Bubble,” and “Fields of Gold,” Simon addressed the sold-out crowd.

“Welcome DC to this experiment we have been conducting,” he said. “Two bands, changing the set list up. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned to have sex for days. (a reference to Sting’s claims for Tantric benefits). And it’s all because of that man.”

“You’ve changed too, right,” he added, turning to Sting.

“Not really,” Sting said with a laugh.

Then for the next 2-and-a-half hours, the duo alternated playing heir hits. The 14 other performers from the 2 groups shuttled in and out depending on the tune. There were so many combinations that you would have needed an advanced math degree to keep track of them all.

For Sting fans, there were both his solo hits and the songs made famous with his old band, The Police. Here’s a sample – “Englishman in New York,” “Driven to Tears,” “Fragile,” “Message in a Bottle,” and “Roxanne,” To me, the high point of the Sting portion was a magnificent “Hounds of Winter.”

For Simon fans, there were solo hits and songs he had popularized with his long-time partner Art Garfunkel. Those included “Mother and Child Reunion,” “Graceland,” “The Boxer,” “Me and Julio (Down by the School Yard), “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” and Simon’s high point “Call Me Al.”

Throughout the night, as they switched from on-stage to off-stage, Sting and Simon talked about their new musical touring union.

Sting was particularly poignant as he described how much Simon’s music has meant to him. He said that some songs always remind people of a certain time and place in their lives. He then proceeded to talk about when he and his Police bandmates first came to America.

“We were touring all over America. Staying in shitty motels and and playing to empty clubs,” he said. “And this song speaks to much of that.” He then broke into a solo performance of Simon’s classic of “America.”

The duo performed a 3-song encore with all 14 band members. It started with a gospel-tinged “Bridge of Troubled Waters. That was followed by an exhilarating “Every Breath You Take.” After the last notes of the 3rd song, an extended jammy version of “Late in the Evening,” the 14 backing band members headed backstage.

Simon and Sting, each with an acoustic guitar in hand, approached the front of stage. “Rock and roll began with a couple of voices, a couple of guitars, and a mike,” Simon said. “I think that’s the way we’ll finish tonight.” He and Sting then offered a beautifully harmonious rendition of the Everly Brothers “When Will I Be Loved.”

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow …

This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC 4.19.2014

For Russell Mitchell and Richie Nocella, who too soon were taken to be a part of the greater Cosmos, and to Steve Ferrera and Dr. Robert Wilkinson, who are still here. And a special shout-out to William Shakespeare, John Updike, and all my South Jersey high school students without whom this story could not be told.

Have I ever told you about the time I performed the “Tomorrow” soliloquy from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth live on the stage of the Folger Shakespeare Library? No? Well, that’s because up until last Sunday, I hadn’t done any such performance.

But now I can tell you the tale (and, no, you smart-assed Shakespearean scholars – it’s not a tale told by an idiot).

I performed the monologue as part of a day-long celebration at the world-renowned DC Shakespeare institution to honor what would have been William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.

And, as you can see here, I even have visual proof, that, in the words of Macbeth himself, “I have done the deed.”

But my involvement with the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy actually begins more than 4 decades ago, which of course chronologically makes for a whole lot more than just 3 tomorrows.

In 1970, I was a 2nd-semester freshman at Villanova University. My English class was taught by Dr. Robert Wilkinson (who, unbeknownst to me at the time, would become a life-long mentor ). In the class were 2 of my best friends, Steve Ferrara, my Boston-speaking roommate, and Richie Nocella from South Philly. Richie, Steve, and I had all been randomly assigned to Dr. Wilkinson’s Freshmen Comp and Lit Class (a bit of fortunate fate that would change all of our lives) the 1st semester and had chosen him for our Spring Semester English course.

In our next class, we would be examining the John Updike short story “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and So Forth.” Obviously, Updike used the beginning of the Macbeth soliloquy for his title. So Dr. Wilkinson had assigned me to memorize the 74-word word soliloquy and deliver it to the class to start our exploration.

Piece of cake, I thought. And it would have been too, if it hadn’t been for the fact that my recitation happened to occur on what turned out to be the first beautiful warm day of a Main Line spring. So somehow Richie and Steve, now joined by the fourth member of our freshmen quartet, Russell Mitchell, decided to celebrate the arrival of warm weather by grabbing some quarts of beer and some smoking material and head to a small stream near our Havertown apartment.

Now, in my defense, I probably didn’t fully realize what Steve was suggesting. To this day, Steve speaks funny. You know the type – Pahk yer cah in the bek yahd. (I mean, come on, there are r’s in those words).

But no matter what the reason, I found myself partaking in the merriment and soon I was – what is the phrase I am searching for here – oh yes, stoned and completely wasted. However, I was confident that I could still deliver my soliloquy since at the time I was a keyboardist in a rock band and had performed numerous times under the influence of chemicals that made members of the audience appear to be things like crazy-colored, melting dragons spewing giant bubbles.

We arrived at class. Richie, Steve, and Russell positioned themselves in strategic places where they could best annoy me. Dr. Wilkinson summoned and I headed to the front of the room, where I proceeded to deliver the soliloquy in flawless fashion despite the best attempts of my trio of friends to distract me. But Dr. Wilkinson – did I mention he is one of the most brilliant men I have ever encountered – must have sensed something was awry. He asked me to repeat my performance. And this time, the outcome was decidedly different. I swear I thought I was beginning by repeating “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” but instead it came out something like “Tomershthis, ang Teropoly um tomomsie.” And it went downhill from there. Anyway, we all had a good laugh, I graduated Villanova with a BA in English, and we moved on with our lives.

After a decade as a reporter, I switched careers and became a high school English teacher. I found myself teaching Macbeth in my British lit class. And so, as I had been asked to do so many years before by Dr. Wilkinson, I had each of my Honors and Academic students memorize the “Tomorrow …” soliloquy and deliver it to the class. To make it more memorable, I tried to pair up performance with interest. A member of the baseball team could recite it standing at home plate. Members of the drama club could say it on stage.  Classroom sweethearts could deliver it together. To this day, many of my students can still recite the soliloquy by memory when I see them. Of course, they then spoil the moment by pointing out that that is the only thing they remember from my class and exactly when did my hair turn gray.

Three years ago, I retired from teaching and instructional coaching and we moved to DC. But then I was asked by a friend to join him in educational consulting. Now I find myself splitting time between high schools in DC and Syracuse, working with teachers who teach in Twilight programs designed for students who are in danger of dropping out.

Last month, I was delivering an impromptu presentation to the teachers and students in Luke C. Moore High School in DC and, in the middle of the delivery, I used the “Tomorrow” soliloquy. While I was speaking the lines, I observed 2 teachers reciting them along with me. After the presentation, I discovered that one, an English teacher, had memorized the passage when he was a high school senior in Asia. The other, a math teacher, had been required to master the soliloquy when he was a 16-year-old student in Nigeria.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, that presentation served as a good rehearsal for my Sunday work on the Folger stage which you can view by clicking here.)

So that concludes my Tomorrow tale for now. I swear it all true except for the parts I made up. But does the story, as I always used to ask my students, contain any morals, messages, or meanings?

I think there are quite a few takeaways from combining Shakespeare’s original soliloquy with my several encounters with it over the decades. They include:

  1. Macbeth says the future “creeps” in a “petty pace.” He is wrong. The future doesn’t creep. One day you are delivering a Shakespeare soliloquy in your freshmen college class. In what seems like a brief passage of time (but is actually 4 decades) you find yourself delivering that same soliloquy on a stage.
  2. Macbeth calls life “a walking shadow” that after death is “heard no more.” Sorry, Macbeth, wrong again. Life is not a shadow, but substance. And memories allow our life stories to resonate through times that come long after we are gone.
  3. While it’s true that moments of our lives are “full of sound and fury,” they do not “signify nothing.” Our friends, our experiences, our memories all give meaning, not nothingness, to our lives.
  4. And perhaps most importantly, if 3 or more of your friends ever ask you to celebrate the warmth and beauty of a first warm Spring day, be safe, but take a chance.  For whether you are an idiot or genius, there really is no telling how your tale will turn out.

We Can’t Know What We Don’t Know

Claude Nadir in the role I knew him – Dunbar educator
Nadir as “Philosopher King” rap MC

This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC 4.16.2014

We often think we know people, but many times we don’t know them as well as we think we do. Case in point – my relationship with my fellow educator Claude Nadir.

I met Nadir 3 years ago when I began consulting at Dunbar High School. Dunbar was once the preeminent black high school in America, but, like its urban counterparts around the country, it has fallen on hard times. Only 18 percent of its students read on grade level. That number is even lower for math.

At the time I met him, Nadir was a media specialist. But it quickly became apparent he was much more – he was a mover, a shaper, a problem solver. For the next 3 years, we worked on several projects together. As you might expect, we also came to share our frustration with the chaos and counter-intuitiveness that comes with urban education, especially in a district as troubled as DC. But Nadir, an indefatigable worker, never gave up his belief that the school, with innovation and hard work, could be turned around. He had expressed that optimism in the state-of-the-art web site and the special radio spots he had designed for Dunbar.

When I last saw Nadir , he was making corrections to his plan for the state testing that was going on in the school. He was still at Dunbar, even though it was nearly 6 p.m. and the students had been gone for 2-and-a-half hours. Ever the perfectionist, Nadir was erasing some mistakes he had made and was once again revising the revisions of the revisions he had already made.

We joked. We exchanged a few pleasantries. We said goodbye.  I left for a Twilight school program at another school. Nadir stayed to finish his work.

On Monday, I received a shocking text from one of my fellow consultants. He had learned that Nadir, only 34, had died. The text didn’t contain any details, so I rushed to the internet to see what I could find.

Googling his name, I discovered that Nadir indeed had died. But I also found out that there was so much about Claude – just one of the many names he was known as – that I had never known.

A piece from the ArtsDesk section of the Washington City Paper described Akil Nadir as a “Philosopher King, the straight-ahead MC known for his battle rhymes and sophisticated bravado” who had “influenced the course of D.C. hip-hop” and produced “grown man rap music.”

It also said that Nadir was known to his family and friends as Claude Lumpkin. In his local rap career, he had variously performed as Cool Cee Brown and in a duo known as Dirty Water.

City Paper writer Marcus J. Moore reported that Nadir had first navigated local hip-hop as a teenager in the mid-1990s, when MCs were confined to small clubs on U Street because Chuck Brown and go-go then ruled the District.

Moore quoted local artist DJ RBI on Nadir and his rap rep. “He dealt with a lot of issues grown men could relate to,” DJ RBI said. “Certain guys come along and remind you of how great the culture of rhyming and making music can be. He was somebody people really paid attention to.”

Well, not everyone paid attention to Nadir’s music. I didn’t. I didn’t even know it existed. But exploring Nadir’s life on line further, I did find the frank, funny Claude I knew.

On his blog, Nadir had this to say about the controversial issue of standardized testing:

I was telling you yesterday about how we just wrapped up the 2011 standardized tests at work. And I thought later that you all might want to know what I think about standardized tests.

I think they suck.

And maybe you didn’t want to know what I think. I told you anyway because I know what’s best for you.

They suck because they’re dumb. The kids don’t take them seriously because in DC they don’t count for anything. In New York City, you can’t graduate from high school unless you pass their big standardized test. Same thing in Texas. In DC, however, because we’re all so damned smart, we’ve invested millions of dollars into a testing system that the students are supposed to take seriously because …because … because… if they don’t do well, all the teachers they hate will lose their jobs.

Brilliant!

But I guess I can’t really complain about standardized tests and how inadequate they are in the business of measuring student achievement until someone comes up with a better idea. And since we can’t crack open their skulls, as much as we may want to, and see what’s going on in there, tests will have to do.

Still, like one of my students said on the first day of testing, “I don’t see why we gotta take this stupid- ass test anyway. A nigga ain’t gone know what a nigga don’t know.”


Well, Claude Lumpkin Akil Nadir, that doesn’t apply only to young black men. It applies to 62-year-old white men, too. I’m sorry I never got to know about your musical life. I know I would have liked it. And I also know that if you put even a portion of your amazing effort and immense heart into your rapping that I watched you put into your educating, it would have definitely been the opposite of stupid-ass. So goodbye, Philosopher King. It was good to know you, even if I didn’t know as well as I could have.

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