It was January 1, 1970. I was six months from graduating from college. Six months from the real world. I was wearing bell-bottom pants and a tie-dye T-shirt, standing in a closet with the door ajar. I was listening to the last of the music produced together by four blokes called The Beatles.
I was unable to run or climb stairs quickly because I had recently suffered a herniated disc and was dealing with constant sciatic pain down my right leg. X-rays couldn’t show the damage and doctors couldn’t verify it. I had a horrible draft lottery number and was certain, even though I was incapacitated, I would be headed to Vietnam within months of my graduation. I was freaking out. Luckily, I received an eleventh hour reprieve and was declared ineligible for military service.
Therefore, January 1, 1970 was the first day of my favorite decade. I loved the ‘70s and I don’t know how many times I’ve told people younger than myself that the ‘70s were a great time, an exciting time. Except for one thing
The War in Vietnam.
Even though we spent the first half of the decade in the midst of a senseless war in which several of my schoolmates and thousands of my generation died, we had hope. We thought we could change things, improve the US, its government and policies, and better the world. We marched. We wrote letters. We voted. We had hope.
After all, we were seeing changes, positive steps in the Civil Rights Movement. We were seeing a developing Woman’s Movement. And, unexpectedly, there also was even a glimmer of a Gay Rights Movement. Things were looking better. The sexual revolution had been born. Marijuana use was common and, in certain circles, acceptable.
But, for me, while there were many contributing factors, what made the 1970s special was the music. Certainly, I loved the music from the late ’50s through the ‘60s, especially that which was created by Black musicians or influenced by them. While I enjoyed The Beatles and so many other musicians who were part of the British Invasion, Motown, Phil Specter’s Solid Wall of Sound, and R&B got my juices flowing. Therefore, I was primed for the signature music of the ‘70s…
I remember my first disco experience as if it were yesterday: The City in San Francisco. We’re not talking John Travolta/white suit disco here. We’re talking gay disco, with hundreds of dancing men in T-shirts, tanks, and polos that were shed as sweat poured from their pores. I was overwhelmed with the sound system, the fullness of the music, its layers, and its joy. I was pulled in to the unfamiliar lyrics of the one-hit wonder Everyday People’s gay-lib anthem I Like What I Like (Because I like It), Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra’s Love’s Theme segueing ( Segueing? Who ever heard of segueing before that?) into Under the Influence of Love, and I’ll Always Love My Mama by The Intruders. The Disco Era continued beyond that night, into the 1980s, and I could list countless other records and artists from those years that I loved, that impacted me on numerous levels. But I won’t. Let it just be said that disco was not merely Saturday Night Fever and The Bee Gees for me.
I’m turning 70 this week. It’s like January 1, 1970 all over again. I’ve got that whole decade ahead of me. The ‘70s. Only this time it is my 70s, not the ‘70s. I’m not as hopeful or excited about this 70s. Perhaps it is because life and US politics has left me jaded, skeptical, and disillusioned. Perhaps it is because I no longer have hope. It isn’t that I don’t care about the US anymore; it’s that I don’t have the energy or stamina after 50+ years to keep fighting the hypocrisy and bullshit. I don’t have the energy and stamina to maintain the façade of hope. That is the primary reason I left the US. While I may have loved the 1970s, I realize, now, decades later, I wouldn’t want to live them again, not with all their false promise. Not after all we have endured since then. Not while we are dealing with today’s shit. Not now since I know how it all turned out. No. I wouldn’t want to live those ‘70s again.
Except for the music.