Measuring boomer timelines by celebrity birthdays

As a leading-edge baby boomer, BoomerCafé executive editor and co-founder Greg Dobbs admits that his musical tastes run to the old-fashioned. He’ll still happily listen to the likes of Sinatra and Streisand over Taylor Swift or Britney Spears. Miley Cyrus … probably not. But at least he knows who Swift and Spears are.  Which is an exception to the rule in Greg’s life, as you’ll see when he shares a little secret about how he reacts to most modern celebrities today!

One day last week I was ecstatic, absolutely ecstatic. When I opened my daily copy of The Denver Post and came to the page where each day they herald the birthdays of celebrities, I knew every one of the names! It’s a rare day anymore that this happens.

Axl Rose

Axl Rose

It doesn’t mean I could pick them all out of a police lineup; I know that rock singer Axl Rose, for example, who turned 52 that day (and that’s no misspelling of Axel), is the guru of the group Guns N’ Roses, although if I tripped over him on the sidewalk, I wouldn’t know it.

But did you know that Zsa Zsa Gabor — just “Zsa Zsa,” of course, to us baby boomers who knew her when that luminous hair really might have been blonde — just turned 97? For that matter, did you even know that Zsa Zsa is still alive? Neither did I. And Fabian? Fabian, for heaven’s sake. He’s still alive too, and although he had his time in the sun way back in the 1950s and 60s, he’s only a few years too old to be a baby boomer himself; Fabian (for the record, born Fabiano Anthony Forte) just turned 71.

Fabiano Anthony Forte … aka Fabian.

Fabiano Anthony Forte … aka Fabian.

So I was pretty proud of myself, recognizing the names of every celebrity that day in the Post’s little black birthday box. Proud, because most days I don’t know who most of the birthday celebs are and some days … true confessions here … I know none.

For example, in the same week as the day of Zsa Zsa’s birthday, and Fabian’s, (and also now-75-year-old MASH star Mike Farrell’s and 74-year-old NBC newsman Tom Brokaw’s, even 64-year-old singer Natalie Cole’s. Hey, wasn’t her father a big singing star when we were growing up?) … in that same week the Post also proclaimed the birthdays of such luminaries as rock singer Gavin DeGraw (37), actress Rebel Wilson (28), and rapper Sean Kingston, who made the list of Big Names With Birthdays at the advanced arthritic age of 24. Never seen any of their work. Or heard it either.

Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole

So what’s going on here? Not only was I unable to actually picture these and the many other celebrities celebrated that week, I’m quite sure that I never even heard their names before in all my life! Granted, I’m not hip to the popular culture of our kids (and by using “hip” I’m probably sealing the verdict), but what does this say about me? (This, by the way, is what’s known as a “rhetorical question;” it is not a question I actually want you to answer!)

Greg Dobbs

Greg Dobbs

Well, at least I’m not alone. Jay Leno has just walked away from one of the great runs in show business because he’s in the same fix. As he told 60 Minutes about leaving the Tonight Show, “I think after a while, you know, I’m not gonna be that up on the latest Justin Bieber record when you’re 64.” Correspondent Steve Kroft asked him if he even knew what that latest song is? “No. I don’t.” If Kroft did — he’s an old colleague of mine and about the same age — it’s probably only because he looked it up.

But Jay doesn’t know. And neither do I. And I don’t care. Nor do I know the latest song from Bruno Mars, who’s apparently such a big star that he had top billing during halftime at the Super Bowl.

Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars

I never heard of the guy before the game … and couldn’t care less if I ever hear of him (or even more so, hear him) again! I’d much rather listen to the lasting legacies of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper … although alas, I was also reminded in one of last week’s little black boxes that they died on February 3rd 54 years ago in that plane crash in Iowa. Or the Beatles, who were already singing on Ed Sullivan when the youngest baby boomer was born.

Of course maybe you don’t need to know all this about me and my tastes, because after you read at the top of this treatise that it’s about the daily delight this leading-edge baby boomer gets by holding a newspaper in his hand and reading it, you learned all you need to know.

8 Comments

  1. Wow, are we are the same page. Thank you so much for sharing. I now do not feel so isolated and alone. Oh and when you are done with the sports section of the paper, would you please pass it over, thanks.

  2. Hi Greg. I think, in addition to the apathy toward modern culture that comes with age, there is also the notion that movies and music, in general, are just not that good anymore. Last night I spend 3 hours on public radio celebrating The Beatles. I think Bruno Mars is a heck of an entertainer, but do you think anyone will be celebrating his music in 50 years? Highly unlikely. Our generation was very fortunate to have landmark entertainers with which to measure our memories. Our kids have no such yardstick. On the other hand, they don’t seem to care much about that, either.

  3. I’m 90 years old and am still a fan of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Their romantic music inspired me when I danced with my girlfriend. Today’s performers jump all over the stage screaming and I can’t understand the words. And the audience is screaming and waving their arms so I can’t even hear the music. It doesn’t make sense.
    There are just too many celebrities today. I turn the pages of a magazine and there are crowds of girls on every spread offering their bare bodies in sexual poses. It cheapens them and they’ve altered their looks so that they all look alike. How can I remember them?
    Oh, take me back to the sweeter days 75 years ago.

    1. Mr. Walker,

      You are an authentic celebrity in my book. I was an avid follower your character, Beetle Bailey, on the comic pages for years when I was a kid.

      I wonder what Beetle might say about today’s glut of celebrities?

      David

  4. Did anyone watch the Grammys? I usually write these awards off as irrelevant to what is really happening in the music world because it typically honors only people-pleasing- pop-performance. But this year, the show paired standard oldies with the new artists and it knocked my socks off! Carole King, who just turned 72, sang a stunning piano duet with a young singer named Sarah Barreiles. In Frank Sinatra’s day, few people could crack the big time and there was little choice, but today with the internet everyone has a chance! It’s up to you to find the music you love. And believe me, it’s out there. The Axls-Brunos-Gagas are tired and over-hyped, but give websites like Spotify and Pandora a chance by plugging in your favorite artist (Sinatra/Crosby) and see what comes up!

  5. I actually think there’s some great music being produced today. Trouble is, we’re, as a rule, exposed to the artists who receive the most hype. One has to dig a little deeper. College radio stations are one source of some different material.

  6. Dear Mr. Dobson:

    Thank you for such a well-stated perspective.

    Like fashion, music defines a time period. Along with the familiar music of our youth, we also recall various standards of behavior and beliefs. But, remember how the gyrations of Elvis Presley shocked our elders? Don’t forget Jim’s Hendrix famous guitar smashing performances. Our generation was also known for pushing boundaries. We accepted open cohabitation and hitch hiking.

    What fascinates me is why, for every generation, the music of our youth invokes such lasting memories rather than the music of our later years?

  7. Re Bruno Mars. Due to his Filipino mom and musical family growing up in Hawaii, most of his music is articulate ballads. Take a look at the Wikepedia page for him and listen to some of his music. Please.

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