Oh Very Young


Cat Stevens always identified way too much with the older side of the generation gap. At a time when the gap was a thing of considerable contention, Stevens wrote songs not of rebellion but of sympathy towards the mature and responsible. Even his love songs take the position of weary and older. Perhaps it’s his peaceable nature and knack for empathy, perhaps he was always an old soul. But now that he actually is a crotchety old man, he’s one of the few who can revive his old hits without an uncomfortable disconnect between the spirit of the song and the reality of the singer (and it’s a great thing that he’d decided to finally do so, after so many years.) His music has really weathered well in a way that more youth-specific music has not. Anybody can enjoy Cat Stevens at any time in their life. Unlike, let’s just say, The Sex Pistols, whose output is so tailored to the needs of angry twenty-somethings that any fan has to grapple with either the fact that the men who made the music are either dead or too old to live their own message, or the discomfort of admitting that they’re just too old for this shit themselves. Or My Generation, a song that was timely for a year or two and now presents a conundrum for both its creators and its fans; whose generation is it about now? Although today The Gap is just a place to buy reasonably priced sweaters, there’s still a chafe between the olds and the youngs. In fact, that chafe and discomfort is more pronounced today than it has been in decades, as politically active youth reject their Boomer grandparents’ ongoing delusion that their can’t-we-all-get-along humanist utopia has been achieved. (But we have a black President! Don’t we all bleed red? White men matter too! etc etc) Political strife and differences in values aside, there still will always be the philosophical aspect of contemplating the condition of being old vs. the condition of being young. It’s pat but true to say that not every young person makes it, but every old one has been there. That is the matter that remains interesting and relevant regardless of where you are in your own life or how your particular real-world context colors your experience.

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