SAN DIEGO -- It’s as if the 1960s has crash landed smack in the middle of America 2013. Marches for racial equality. Fights for civil rights. Soldiers deployed to small, far-away lands.
Believe it or not, today’s social challenges are actually born of decades of progress. They are rooted in seeds planted more than 50 years ago by Martin Luther King, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, Cesar Chavez and the LGBT protestors at the Stonewall Inn. From blacks to women to workers to Latinos to gays, strides toward equality and justice became Movements with a capital M.
Out of this historic decade, artists of the Sixties created amazing, socially charged music as well as some of the most energetic new sounds from Motown to the California beach scene. This weekend, when the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus (SDGMC) presents its upbeat show "Feelin’ Groovy—Songs of the Sixties," this decade of music will come to life—illuminating the influence 1960s music and dance had on American society and vice versa.
"President Kennedy was assassinated on my 13th birthday," said bass singer Oren Scala of Linda Vista. "The shock of that moment for our country cannot be expressed or understood today. Looking back, we now know that this event was just the beginning of the turbulence, violence and struggles that were to follow."
Folk music most closely reflected the troubling times with groups like Simon & Garfunkel, The Mamas & The Papas and The Byrds.
"Where Have All the Flowers Gone," asked Joan Baez in one of the most politically charged anti-war songs of all-time. As if in response, folk group Peter, Paul & Mary answered they are "Blowin’ in the Wind." Both songs will be featured at SDGMC’s concert.
One of the offshoots of folk culture was the emergence of the hippies and flower children who were anti-war, free-spirited, peace-and-love advocates. The Fifth Dimension sang of "The Age of Aquarius" and "Let the Sunshine In." "Hair" became an anthem for all hippies seeking to rebel against their parents with "hair down to there."
"My father was a barber in the Sixties," said first tenor Michael Gangitano of Normal Heights. "When the Beatles introduced the long hairstyle, men got fewer haircuts in order to let their hair grow. It became harder and harder to support a growing family."
With hits like "Twist & Shout" and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," The Beatles continued to set popular trends throughout much of the Sixties. In fact, it was their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show that solidified the enormous power held by that little box of black and white magic. SDGMC’s show pays homage to Sixties TV, whistling through The Andy Griffith Show theme, snapping fingers to The Addams Family and taking on commercials like Dinah Shore’s "See the USA in a Chevrolet."
“In the Sixties, I was an innocent towheaded boy living in suburbia-Clairemont," said Point Loma resident Eric Hansen, a bass. "I remember watching Batman on a color console television!"
Conversely, TV also brought an end to childhood innocence.
"I remember the evening news with nightly war casualty reports being as routine as weather reports," said bass John McCoy of Hillcrest.
However, despite all the challenges of the times, Sixties music also found ways to “Celebrate” like Three Dog Night and to remind everyone that “The Beat Goes On” according to Sonny & Cher. Dance crazes like the Twist and the Mashed Potato taught teenagers new ways to swing their hips. In many ways, American innocence remained.
"I remember lying down on the long bench seat of our family’s 1968 Chevy Impala and staring at the red glow in the middle of the AM push-button radio," said Gangitano. "The images in the songs were especially exciting and glamorous to me. When I hear them, they take me right back to good, family childhood memories."
SDGMC’s "Feelin’ Groovy" tickets are now on sale for Saturday, July 27 at 8 pm and Sunday, July 28 at 2 and 7:30 pm online or 877-296-7664.
The Birch North Park Theatre is located at 2891 University Ave.