Does this sound like anyone you might know?
A child is born with “spina bifida” back in October of 1951.
He had corrective surgery as a child and his youth was not unlike any others except his burning ambition to be a rock and roll star.
He was average in school, a bit of a rebel and by the age of 14 had already started playing in local bands in the small Midwestern town where he was growing up.
At 18, he eloped with his pregnant girlfriend and was a father by the time he graduated High School.
But he stayed focused and to be a better Dad, he attended a small local college, but it was the 70’s and the lure of drugs and alcohol were strong.
He graduated, though, and continued to play the bar scene with local rock bands.
After graduation, he headed to New York with the hopes of landing a record contract.
That sounds like it could be the early life story of just about any kid from the Midwest.
Sex, drugs and Rock and Roll, right?
Well, it’s how the story unfolds that makes it so interesting from a Baby Boomer perspective.
OK, I know that was 35 years ago.
But, how can you forget the stirring and impassioned 2 ½ minute instrumental intro?
OK, you want me to make this a little easier?
Let’s jump forward a couple of years and see if you remember a little ditty about “Jack and Diane?”
Or maybe “Hurts So Good” or “Hand To Hold On To?”
That’s right, I’m talking about John Cougar or as he is respectfully known today John “Cougar” Mellencamp.
John Mellencamp, born and raised in a Midwest “small town” is one of us.
His trademark style of Midwest “Heartland Rock” has certainly tapped into something undeniably American.
He is a Baby Boomer, a musician and a songwriter who, I think, embodies the spirit of our generation.
For one night we were no longer 50+ senior citizens, we were 18 year old bad boys thinking about back seat trysts with our girlfriends, Bobby Brooks jeans, smoking OP’s and rebelling against authority.
The evening opened with a rousing R & B and gospel tinged set by the 75 year old Mavis Staples of the Staples Singers fame.
Local, Southern California favorites, "Los Lobos” took the stage next and seemed slightly humored to be playing in front of the predominately senior citizen audience.
There is kind of an irony in this being that their biggest hit, “Will the Wolf Survive,” from 1984 foreshadowed the fact that Los Lobos (The Wolves) are still going strong after 30 years on the road.
The band brought the crowd to its feet several times during their set with their distinctive blend of rock, blues, soul and Latin music styles.
As they ended their show with an extended version of the hit “La Bamba” it was hard to imagine that this five-man band celebrated its 41st anniversary this year.
He smoothly segued into his newest single “Troubled Man” off of his latest album “Plain Spoken.”
It didn't take long after the opening chords of his 1988 hit “Check It Out” off of his “Lonesome Jubilee” album to bring the crowd to its feet and up to the front of the stage.
His band quietly slid off the stage and John, alone, center stage commanded the spotlight with acoustical versions of “Jack and Diane”, “Longest Days” and “Small Town.”
It almost seemed like a sign of respect that John wanted to play these songs by himself to this older audience.
With just an acoustic guitar in hand, they unfolded like a friendly conversation between close friends.
John returned with the remaining band members and as the last violin notes faded the band roared into "Rain on the Scarecrow", one of his all time classics.
With the crowd hoisting their beers and dancing in the aisles (yes, they were dancing in the aisles) the band began ripping off a digest of their greatest hits:
- Paper in Fire
- Crumblin’ Down
- R.O.C.K. In the USA
- Pink Houses
- Authority Song
"That's when a sport was a sport
And groovin' was groovin'
And dancin' meant everything
We were young and we were improvin'
Laughin', laughin' with our friends
Holdin' hands meant somethin', baby
Outside the club"Cherry Bomb"
Our hearts were really thumpin'
Say yeah yeah yeah
Say yeah yeah yeah"
I think the crowd forgot, for at least the moment, that they had been there for an AARP convention.
"Seventeen has turned thirty-five
I'm surprised that we're still livin'
If we've done any wrong
I hope that we're forgiven
Got a few kids of my own
And some days I still don't know what to do
I hope that they're not laughing too loud
When they hear me talkin'
Like this to you."
There’s a lot of truth to be told in the final verse of this song.
In reality, seventeen has now turned to fifty-five and yes, we have a few kids (and grandkids) of our own.
But, "if I have done anything wrong, I still hope I will be forgiven" and most ironically...............
"some days I still don’t know what to do.”
That’s not a bad thing, is it?
It's easy to tell them about it.
Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at www.survive55.com.
The more Baby Boomers we can help, the better place we make this world !!!
Thanks for joining me..........................................................