Boomers Were Feeling Groovy

Slang words and phrases rise and fall in popularity during every generation. While some slang lingers on, rediscovered by following generations to breathe continuing life into the vocabulary, others disappear from use and are relegated to the dustbins of history. In this latter category is a slang word from the Boomer Years: groovy.

It is thought that the word had its origins from the phrase, “in the groove,” spoken by Jazz musicians up to three decades before the first boomers arrived on the scene. The phrase described the excellent playing and rhythmic flow of a musician who had tapped into his or her ultimate improvisation. In subsequent generations, athletes riffed on the phrase to describe their peak performance status as, “in the zone.”

For boomers, “groovy” appeared in the early-to-mid-sixties. It was used primarily as an adjective to express a happy, good feeling. Though often associated with Flower Power and the Flower Children of the Summer of Love, there is evidence of its use earlier than that in pop music. Pop music was and continues to be one way that slang words are perpetuated. Mister Boomer has four songs here as examples of the use of the word, groovy. So consider this your Jeopardy! category for the week: songs that have a use or variation of the word “groovy” in the lyrics.

A Groovy Kind of Love
The Mindbenders, 1965

Wouldn’t you agree
Baby you and me
Got a groovy kind of love

Mister Boomer does not know if there was an earlier use of groovy in a song, but this was the earliest he could find. Written by Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sayer, it was originally recorded by Diane and Annita in 1965. That same year, The Mindbenders, a group that had previously been the backup band for Wayne Fontana (The Game of Love, 1965), had a hit with it. Boomer-era musicians were so enamored with the tune that a series of singers covered it for the next half-decade, including Petula Clark (1966), Mrs. Miller (1966), Patti LaBelle (1967), Sony & Cher (1967), Gene Pitney (1967), and a host of others. Gen Xers probably remember the Phil Colins cover of the song in 1988.

Groovin’
The Young Rascals, 1967

Groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon

The song, with its soulful feel, described a variation of groovy, as if it was a throwback to its origins. This was the last album the band went by the name, The Young Rascals. After that, they used the name, The Rascals.

Reach Out of the Darkness
Friend & Lover (James and Cathy Post), 1967

I think it’s so groovy now
That people are finally getting together

The song peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Top 100. Ironically, the title is never actually sung within the song; rather, reach out in the darkness is the closest it gets.

59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
Simon & Garfunkel, released as a single in 1967 (B-side) and 1970 (A-side)

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

The song was included on the duo’s popular Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album (1966), but was never a hit for them on its own. A bit of trivia for you: Two members of the Dave Brubeck Quartet played on the song: Gene Wright (bass) and Joe Morello (drums). Simon & Garfunkel also performed it at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

In Mister Boomer’s experience, groovy never made it into the everyday vocabulary in his area; Mister B does not recall a single person saying “groovy”. In his region, neat, the ever-popular cool, or keen was used to describe a a happy, good feeling or something that was terrific.

Did you pepper your speaking with the word, groovy, boomers? What is your favorite groovy song?

Boomers Looked for the Union Label on Labor Day

Mister Boomer has noted what Labor Day meant to him and his family through the years; a holiday that called for a family gathering with his uncles, aunts and cousins, but also a dreaded school-year eve, as school began the very next day. Yet there was another aspect to the celebration of Labor Day that was impossible to ignore — especially growing up in the midwest Rust Belt — and that is union rallies and parades on Labor Day.

It is estimated that during the Boomer Years, approximately 35-40 percent of the workforce belonged to unions. By Mister Boomer’s experience, it seemed much higher than that. Mister B’s father did not work in a union factory, but all of his uncles (except one), and a few aunts, did. In the neighborhood, far more men and women worked at union jobs than those who did not. There were a host of auto and steel workers, but also telephone company workers, postmen, truck drivers, teachers and even one neighbor in a printers’ union. In short, middle class America during the Boomer Era was well represented by unions.

No one from Mister B’s family, unionized or not, generally appeared at Labor Day union rallies, though Mister B recalls seeing reports about them on TV. On the national holiday set aside to celebrate the American worker, there was always a worker-related component to union rallies, be it safety in the workplace, wages or benefits. TV reports would show workers carrying signs promoting the selected causes for the day, and speakers, from union officials to elected politicians, took turns extolling the virtues and rights of American workers. It became an annual tradition for many politicians to attend the rallies, since union endorsement might help propel a candidate toward victory in any upcoming election. From Mister B’s vantage point, it appeared unions were at their strongest during the three decades of the Boomer Years.

Now, as then, the subject of unions draws a great deal of pride and praise on one side, and venom and distrust on the other. Mister Boomer is in no way wading into the pros and cons of unions with his humble nostalgia blog. Rather, he is pointing out his observations on the way he, and possibly millions of other boomers, lived during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

Mister Boomer never belonged to a union himself, though not for lack of trying. Union jobs meant better pay and benefits than non-union jobs — that’s the way it was. By the time Mister B was of teen employment age, two of his friends had union jobs at grocery stores. Consequently, once Mister B found a job, his friends made three times his hourly wage, plus had sick days, overtime and holiday pay. Mister Boomer saw what the union jobs meant in his area. No one would ever think his region was anything but a working class neighborhood, yet families could afford their houses and a second car, and in many cases, a vacation cottage and a boat, too.

While Mister B and his siblings were called “four eyes” for having to wear glasses, his parents had to pay for them. Kids of parents in some of the higher-paying union jobs, like his uncles, got complete vision care, and medical and dental coverage, too. Mister B’s family had no such luck.

From Mister Boomer’s vantage point, it is evident that unions played a major role in advancing the middle class and thus fueling the Boomer Generation. No matter how you feel about the role of unions in today’s workplace, Mister Boomer feels it is evident that the opportunities unions gave to the parents of the Baby Boom helped shape the generation to what it became.

Did your father or family members belong to a union in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, boomers? Did you ever attend a union rally on Labor Day?