Boomers lived through a time when people hoped and prayed that the national collection of nuclear/air raid shelters, which were mostly housed in the basements of government buildings, would never be needed. As it turned out, nuclear war was avoided, but many of these shelters were used in subsequent storms and natural disasters. Today you’d be hard-pressed to find one still in existence. In addition, many boomers had family air raid shelters built in their basements and backyards.
Yet, even living through that time of worry and tension, nothing could prepare us for the current medical emergency that has been visited upon our world. Dylan sang about a woman offering “… shelter from the storm,” and the Rolling Stones pleaded, Gimme Shelter. What strikes Mister Boomer during this crisis, though, is not sheltering songs and predictions of the apocalypse, but rather the use of boomer-era music in a hopeful fashion.
In particular, Lean on Me, by Bill Withers, is being played and sung everywhere, by and for healthcare professionals and first responders. Ironically, Bill Withers passed away on March 30. That alone would have been reason enough to become reacquainted with his body of work, but this crisis has elevated Lean on Me to a point near anthem status.
There are reports of families playing and streaming boomer-era music in their shelter-at-home isolation for their kids and grandkids, passing on musical knowledge that, in Mister Boomer’s humble opinion, was the best the twentieth century had to offer.
There is another boomer-era song that has been repurposed for reasons far beyond what George Harrison might have envisioned. A hospital in New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in this country, has taken to playing a snippet of Here Comes the Sun over the PA system when patients at the hospital have recovered from their ailment and are being discharged. That one small act of referencing a ubiquitous boomer-era song sparks a ray of hope for exhausted and weary medical personnel throughout the hospital. It is a reminder to them that people are surviving, and their work is not in vain.
Mister Boomer certainly adds his voice to the chorus of those singing the praises of our healthcare and essential workers. But it is particularly gratifying to know that from a group now considered among the most vulnerable to this disease — boomers — comes musical bits of unity and hope.
There’s Got to Be a Morning After, boomers. We Can Work It Out.
What songs give you hope during these trying times, boomers?