Are there such things as “generations,” and if there are, can they have a conscience? Can they have voices that represent those consciences?
I’m not sure about the first question, though I have my doubts. Far too many variables and feedback loops. But I’ll say yes for now and posit this: For the young at heart in the 1960s and 1970s, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young certainly qualified, as did Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Joan Baez, Melanie, Cat Stevens and, of course, the Beatles.
The young, back then, actually looked to songwriters for inspiration, messages, a Way. They actually cared enough about what they said to act physically on the song’s behalf. On the word’s behalf. To make it their own or share it with friends, or both at the same time. And if they were really lucky, they got to see their prophets in concert, hopefully at their peak, and they could dance the song into being in still another sense, kinetically, and share that too.
Carry On sounds to me like a message of hope for the shipwrecked, a call to awaken from one’s slumbering drift, alone at sea, alone anywhere. Perhaps the way CSNY crafted the song — written by Stephen Stills to open the Deja Vu album — has something to do with that too. The way they jammed. Their improv methods. Dallas Taylor, in the liner notes (1991 box set release):
“The song was written in the middle of the Deja Vu sessions, when Nash told Stephen they still didn’t have an opener for the album. It was something of a message to the group, since it had become a real struggle to keep the band together at that point. Stephen combined two unfinished songs and stuck them onto a jam we’d had out in the studio a few nights before, me on drums and Stephen on a Hammond B-3 organ. As the track begins I’m playing bass drums and high hat, and Graham is playing congas. Then we go into a 6/8 groove, which is rather obscure – Stephen loved to change gears that way. The sessions would go on all night, sometimes 3 or 4 days non-stop. The thing I loved about the studio was you could never tell if it was day or night, and we hid all the clocks so no one knew what time it was.”
Who speaks for the young at heart today? Who is the voice for the rising generations? I have no idea. But I do know we likely need songs of peace, love and reconciliation now more than ever. And there’s always room for hope.