Boomers Had That Old-Time Religion

On a recent trip to the supermarket, Mister Boomer noticed a neighborhood church had their services listed on a sign out front. This, of course, is hardly unusual. What struck Mister B was that there was only one service listed for Sunday. It stood in stark contrast to what Mister B had grown up with, where his family’s church had three services scheduled on each Sunday alone. The difference between then and now is one of cultural demographics and a shift in philosophical thinking.

In the prime boomer era between the 1950s and 1970s, at least 90 percent of the U.S. population listed themselves as belonging to a particular religion, and Christian was the overwhelming preference. Today, according to Pew Research, that number has dropped to 63 percent. Though boomers have held their religious affiliation for a longer period of time than other generations, there was still an approximate 30 percent shift in boomer religious affiliation in the past 40 years. Pertinent to our topic today, is the precipitous rise in the number of people who wish to remain religiously unaffiliated. In the 1970s, approximately five percent of the population listed no religious affiliation; today that number has risen to nearly 30 percent. However, that same survey indicates that approximately 65 percent of older Americans (i.e., boomers) are more likely to have retained the religious affiliation of their youth. Though there has been a drop in boomer-age people professing a religious preference, the larger gap exists in the generations that followed the boomers.

Social scientists, theologians and philosophers are all attempting to understand the dramatic shifts that are reshaping the religion landscape that began in the boomer era and continues to the present. Many possible theories have emerged, from boomers raising their children with more openness to other religions or non-affiliated preferences due to monumental changes in major religious thought in the 1960s (the influence of a “hippie” philosophy, man?), to a self-inflicted push away from organized religion brought about by numerous scandals across multiple denominations. Others point to the questions that are being asked by government census takers and pollsters themselves: certainly it is now much more socially acceptable to list oneself as religiously unaffiliated than it was in, say, the 1970s. Others mention how boomers moved to various places across the U.S. for employment, no longer living in the same area or even the same state as their families. Moving from one part of the country to another was facilitated by the building of the interstate highway system and popularization of air travel. Dozens of other explanations have been proffered.

Mister Boomer’s family was, in retrospect, a tad more “religious” than the people in his neighborhood. His family went to services weekly, and religious holidays and observances were practiced in the home. Mister B and his siblings all attended parochial schools. Yet Mister Boomer recalls that neither of his grandfathers attended services regularly, though his grandmothers did.

By the time Mister Boomer was in high school, Brother Boomer had already stopped attending weekly services, paving the way for Mister B to follow suit. Whether it was the times, or personal family thinking, the boys were not forced or coerced in any way to return to attending services. In later years, his father mentioned that they felt it important for their children to make their own decisions about religion, though they clearly would have preferred the boomer brothers chose a different path. Was this a prevailing thought for boomer families, or was Mister B’s family on the cusp of the shift in the wind?

In Mister Boomer’s experience, the war in Vietnam had a tremendous influence on how the males around him felt about organized religion. The old saying goes there are no atheists in fox holes, yet young men grappling with questions of morality as conscription into the military loomed, were not necessarily finding solace in the religions of their upbringing.

How about you, boomers? Does your family’s trajectory mimic the national trend toward the unaffiliated, or have you retained the religion of your youth? How are your children and grandchildren thinking about religious affiliation?

An additional note from Mister Boomer: This blog in general is meant for entertainment purposes to wonder at the life and times of the boomer generation. Mister B is an observer on the road, and is in no way stating one religion or philosophy is better than another.

Boomers Listened To Future Classics in 1963

Mister Boomer has mentioned many times what he has dubbed, Morning Jukebox Syndrome; that “affliction” characterized by waking up with a song playing in your head as if you were listening to a radio station. Mister Boomer has since discovered other boomers have experienced this phenomenon, including his brother. What is most fascinating about it is the songs that pop up are often ones that have not been heard in decades.

This past week, Brother Boomer told Mister B he had an MJS experience with a song that stayed with him from morning into the evening. He did not remember which group recorded the song, and ultimately looked it up: it was Then He Kissed Me by The Crystals (1963). Being curious of nature, Mister B wondered what other songs boomers were listening to in 1963. What he found was surprising in its scope, and amazing to think about how many classic songs were on boomer transistor radios before the Beatles hit the airwaves. Here is a sample of some of them:

Girl Groups Had Quite A Year
1963 was a big year for girl groups. Check out a partial list of popular girl group songs and surely it will jog a few memories.
My Boyfriend’s Back by The Angels
Be My Baby by The Ronettes
Tell Him by The Exciters
Foolish Little Girl by The Shirelles
He’s So Fine by The Chiffons

Folk Was in the House
Folk music mixed right in with popular music of the day.
Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul & Mary
Blowin’ In the Wind by Bob Dylan (also released by Peter, Paul & Mary that year)
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right by Bob Dylan
Walk Right In by The Rooftop Singers

Motown Was Moving’ On Up
Founded as Tamla Records, Motown became the company name in 1960. In 1963, several of its artists frequented the charts.
Fingertips, Part 2 by Little Stevie Wonder
You’ve Really Got A Hold on Me by The Miracles
Pride and Joy by Marvin Gaye

Young Girls Making Hits
It was quite a year for Lesley Gore, but there were also other solo girl artists under the age of 18 who made it big.
It’s My Party by Leslie Gore
She’s the Fool by Leslie Gore
It’s Judy’s Turn to Cry by Leslie Gore
I Will Follow Him by Little Peggy March
Losing You by Brenda Lee

Crooners Were Crooning
Love songs released by new names and established artists were heard in 1963.
Can’t Get Used To Losing You by Andy Williams
Go Away Little Girl by Steve Lawrence
Blue Velvet by Bobby Vinton

Novelty Songs Hit the Airwaves
Unique, often one-hit-wonders made the cut.
Martian Hop by The Ran-Dells
Dominique by The Singing Nun
Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh by Alan Sherman

The Four Seasons Were Going Strong
The group had two Top 50 hits in 1963.
Walk Like A Man by The Four Seasons
Candy Girl by The Four Seasons

Surfing the USA
Surf music was part of the boomer listening lists of 1963.
Wipe Out by The Surfaris
Surfin’ USA by The Beach Boys
Surf City by Jan & Dean

But Wait .. There’s More!
The list of classics from 1963 goes on and on.
Louie Louie by The Kingsmen
Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilbert and the Fireballs
So Much In Love by The Tymes
Easier Said Than Done by The Exciters
I’m Leaving It Up to You by Dale & Grace
Sukiyaki by Kya Sakamoto

… and more. It’s remarkable that now, 60 years later, we still recall these songs with nostalgia and affection. What are your favorites from 1963, boomers?