A couple of years ago I bought a new car. It came with a 6-month free trial for a satellite radio service. I don’t typically listen to the radio. I actually enjoy the moments of peace and quiet I can have when I’m driving. It’s an opportunity to think. But when my son Oliver is in the car with me, he always insists on having something to listen to. He is 11 years old, so his first choice is hip hop, but the language is a bit uncomfortable for me, so we tried the comedy channel, which was worse. We listened to a “clean” comedy channel for a while, but it wasn’t as satisfying. Then we stumbled upon the Beatles Channel.
As a child of the sixties, I grew up with Beatles music. My parents owned the Beatles’ Second Album, being late adopters apparently, and I discovered it when I was about six or seven. I played it constantly. My cousins who were a bit older introduced me to more recent albums they had made, and I remember how much cooler those cousins seemed to be the first time I heard “Hey Jude.”
Oliver was initially repulsed by the music, even though he was familiar with some of the songs. He would groan whenever I made him listen, although he was grudgingly impressed that I appeared to know all the words to every song. I noticed that singing along to Beatles’ music improved my mood, and so I eventually did something I rarely do with my son – I insisted on having my way. “When we are in the car, we’re listening to the Beatles. Drivers’ privilege.” The groaning continued but decreased incrementally over time. Once he finally accepted that he couldn’t beat me, he joined. We began singing in the car together. He has a better singing voice than I do, but I make up for it with enthusiasm.
One day he commented, “All these songs are about love.”
I hadn’t really thought about it before, but he was right. They are. As a fan of rap music, he had memorized the lyrics to several songs, and most of them were self-aggrandizing. “I’m better than you. I have more money than you. Look at how I’m living.” These songs were all about “I love you, I want you, I need you, I miss you, you hurt me, I’m sorry, you make me sad, you make me happy.” He began asking about some of the lyrics and thinking about what the songs meant. Sometimes, I didn’t have an answer. I mean, who can really explain “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” or “Glass Onion”? But certain songs did prompt substantive conversations between us.
This got me thinking about what the world was like at the time these songs were written. The baby boomers were transitioning into adulthood and a growing percentage of them viewed the world differently than their parents. Maybe they didn’t have to go to church, or offer themselves up for military service, or even get a job if they didn’t want to. Maybe they could remake the world the way they wanted it to be. And when I think about this time, it’s comforting to me that “peace” and “love” were the root words of this movement.
I see, as many others do, similarities between that time and today. As millennials transition into adulthood, they bring with them their own world view, and they are challenging societal norms in the same way that baby boomers did. Maybe we can love whoever we want, or ban assault weapons for personal use, or even fix the planet if we want to. And it feels to me like peace and love are making a comeback, led by this generation.
I recently had to drive from Irvine to Los Angeles for a meeting and so I temporarily changed the station to NPR so that I could get a traffic report (no, I don’t have Waze on my phone). After a few minutes of listening to whatever President Knucklehead said that day, I felt myself getting frustrated, and I suddenly realized how much I need the Beatles.
In the evenings, I have a habit of toggling back and forth between Trump TV and Anti-Trump TV to see how each side is spinning the ridiculousness. As important as it is to be well-informed, this viewing has a poisonous effect on me. I can only take so much of it before I have to turn it off and try to think about something that makes me happy.
We can’t fight hate by hating it, no matter how loathsome it is. We can only hope to dilute it by putting more love out into the world. And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. Right?
For breakfast this morning I had black coffee and a Kind bar (peanut butter and dark chocolate).