A boomer’s take: between Groovy and Gnarly

We can’t help but look back on our younger years as baby boomers and see both good and bad. That’s what we like about this essay from Gavin Lakin of San Rafael, California. He calls it “Between Groovy and Gnarly: A Letter from One Decade to Another.”

Dear 1969,

I’d like to take a moment to say, what a year you were! Though you hail from quite the unique little decade— representing the final reckoning of the tumultuous 1960s — it just doesn’t feel right to overlook your connection to me. You were a transition, both an ending and a beginning. From Broadway Joe Namath’s New York Jets Super Bowl upset to The Rolling Stones’ Altamont Free Concert, you were filled with drama and intrigue. I’d be nowhere without you.

Writer Gavin Lakin

I’d like you to understand, my long-suffering bearded and flower child brother, because of you I felt inspired to turn inward and be more reflective, setting the stage for the singer-songwriters who thrived during my years. Was this a direct result of your many tragic news events? Like Hendrix and his guitars, did the world try to burn you up? What was left of you came out the other side of Altamont, handing me the axe, wishing me well.

Sure, there were uplifting stories. The Moon. The Beatles’ memorable “zebra crossing” for the Abbey Road album cover. John & Yoko’s “bed-in” for peace. Woodstock, oh, Woodstock, with its muddy bliss and unparalleled weekend of music history. The Brady Bunch, Scooby Doo, Sesame Street, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus debut.


January 20: Richard Nixon succeeds Lyndon Johnson. Watergate, anyone?

July 3: Rolling Stone Brian Jones drowns in his swimming pool in England.

July 18: Chappaquiddick incident – Edward M. Kennedy drives off a bridge on his way home from a party. Mary Jo Kopechne dies in the submerged car. More tragedy in Camelot.

August 9: Followers of Charles Manson murder Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent. This twisted tale grasped the nation’s attention for months. And Charlie gets three squares and a cot, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.

1968 My Lai Massacre in Vietnam.

September 5: Lieutenant William Calley is charged with six counts of premeditated murder for the 1968 My Lai Massacre deaths of one-hundred-nine Vietnamese civilians. A malignant conclusion that left a black mark on U.S. military history.

November 9: American Indians, led by Richard Oakes, seize Alcatraz Island for nineteen months, inspiring Indian pride and government reform. This was about three-hundred years overdue, considering mistreatment, broken treaties, and outright lies perpetuated by the U.S. Government during the post-American Civil War era.

The Altamont Free Concert in California.

December 6: The Altamont Free Concert is held at the Altamont Speedway in Northern California. Hosted by the Rolling Stones, it was an attempt at a “Woodstock West.” The unexpected violence that occurred, with prodding from the Hells Angels, tainted the event forever. Many see this as the “end of the Sixties.”

Your last #1 hit, “Someday We’ll Be Together,” belonged to the Supremes, the most successful American group of your turbulent reign. It truly felt like an ending, for that magnificent, shiny ball would soon drop on Times Square — Dick Clark would welcome me in.

Peace, man,
The 1970s

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9 Comments on "A boomer’s take: between Groovy and Gnarly"

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Claude Forthomme
Great piece, brought back so many memories. And yes, it’s also a brave attempt to identify the ending of the Wild Sixties: a whole series of not-so-good events in 1969, taken together, rather than a single event. An attractive idea. Personally, I would date the beginning of the end of the Sixties with Bob Kennedy’s assassination the year before. It was a shocking event, happened at the start of summer, I don’t remember the date anymore, sometime in June 1968… But I suppose everyone would pick a different event as the start of the end – it depends on so… Read more »
Gavin Lakin

Thank you, Claude, I completely agree. I discuss this with fellow Boomers quite often. Decades cannot really be defined by ten years, nor can their genesis or termination ever exactly be pinpointed. Those decisions are entirely subjective; this makes life such a mystery, and the past so generous with what it teaches us today. Your insights are very appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts. Gavin

Kurt Buss
I agree with Claude, that this is a great piece and that decades of culture don’t necessarily conform to the calendar year. However, The Sixties are certainly the most iconic years for us boomers. I missed only 6 months and 23 days of the decade, by birth, not loss of memory. My watershed year was 1968, as I was just coming of age (8) and things started to stick in my head. The Tet offensive indicated we weren’t fighting a ragtag army in Vietnam; the assasinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King; Chicago thug cops beating hippies with nightsticks… Read more »
Gavin Lakin
Thank you, Kurt. To every dark side of the moon, there is a “Let the Sunshine In.” You and I are the same age, and, like you, I was entranced by the White Album (“Hey Jude” and its outright expression of love . . . and primal screaming by Paul), Hair (“Where Do I Go?”), Laugh In (those groovy clothes!), and the swiftly tilting planet of politics (of which I was also gathering a foothold of reasonable understanding). I thought more about what Claude (above) remarked: Placing the human condition into ten-year containers is somewhat futile, bordering on unnecessary. Indeed,… Read more »
Guiamar Hiegert

I loved this Gavin! As a (much older on the cusp baby boomer, what you wrote rang true! The generation of “breaking” chains and speaking out. I’m proud to be part of that. Even if in a small way.

Gavin Lakin

Oh dear sweet Guia, Thank you so much! I disagree; you are forever young! Your group just ahead on my tail-end Boomers know that you made it all happen. My 1970s that formed who I am could have taken a very grim turn. Talk soon! Gavin

Gavin Lakin

Thank you so much Guia! You are a step ahead of me and the tail-enders, however, you guys forged the path. Without you, who knows what path we would have had to walk. Continued success with your writing and we’ll talk soon. I really appreciate your support! Gavin

B Leigh

And who could forget Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour… the anthem and beating heart of the sixties – a new era of widespread psychotropic introspection or just a quiet look without and within, thanks to everyone’s new friend, Kind Bud. It was a poetic renaissance, a great leap in awareness for myriad citizens and a truly marvelous time to be alive!

Gavin Lakin

You, bro, Brad! Cool, blue, how are you? Yes, Sgt. P changed the world. That would make quite the acronym: Widespread Psychotropic Introspection (WPI). Who was this fried of yours, Kind Bud? Is he still around? Where did you first meet? I heard he was a little green and liked being moved around in circles. Your sunny view of the era is and has been always refreshing. May you continue! I hope is all with you and yours. Catch you later, B. Music forever! G