“If someone thinks that peace and love are just a cliche that must have been left behind in the 60s, that’s a problem. Peace and love are eternal.”
~ John Lennon
Peace and love are eternal, but we can often forget their presence. Sometimes, we need to remember and recreate those feelings, and that’s exactly what the Happy Together concert tour is doing this summer.
Launched by Flo and Eddie, also known as The Turtles, the tour is going strong in its 11th year. Their 1960s hit Happy Together forms the fun loving banner for a line-up of familiar groups from the era. This year, it’s The Archies, The Association, The Box Tops, Three Dog Night and Cowsills.
Last week, I joined a packed house of fellow Baby Boomers, having snagged one of the last available tickets for the tour’s Tampa Bay performance. It has been nearly a half century since I originally listened to this music on my transistor radio and sang along to these melodies with friends. Even today, the captivating sounds evoke perpetual good feelings in a way that really does feel eternal.
Speaking of eternal, the Turtles’ Happy Together song brings back memories of my late grandmother. She’d cranking up the volume on her AM radio while driving her Ford Mustang when Happy Together came on and sing brightly to the lyrics. When her birthday arrived, I asked what I could get her as a gift. “Buy me the Happy Together record,” she told me. “That way, I can listen to it anytime at home.” It was a proud moment for me in the summer of 1967 when I presented Nana with a 45 rpm vinyl record version of Happy Together, purchased for just 99 cents at our local music store.
Back to the recent concert, I discovered mostly older folks but also noticed several younger members in the audience. Though not originally from that era, they shared a love for the upbeat, catchy and harmonic melodies.
Laurie and Mark Charneske were two of them. They discovered Chicago’s “Oldies FM” station while in their teens. “We started dating in the early 80’s,” Laurie told me, “but we listened to the 60’s music.” Now celebrating a 35 year relationship and a 30 year marriage, that music brings them back to when they were only 16 and first falling in love.
Creating an inter-generational experience to celebrate 1960’s nostalgia, some Boomers brought their kids and grandchildren along. One of them was Chuck Negron, lead singer for Three Dog Night. I met up with his wife, his son and three of his grandchildren after the performance. As relatives and fans representing three generations, they were genuinely enthused, enjoying old melodies and cheering on the family member who announced his 75th birthday while on stage.
Music, culture and politics have changed since the 1960s. Still, the magical harmonies and familiar lyrics playing on stage that night conjured an atmosphere of peace, love and happiness. There might have been angst outside and talk about terrorism dominating the daily news, but as we basked in the collectivized vibrations of this Happy Together concert, such concerns didn’t seem to matter. We were all caught up, enjoying a moment, feeling good together.
I couldn’t resist singing Sugar, Sugar by the Archies. It was the ultimate bubblegum song of all time, but I didn’t care. I was reliving the innocence of junior high school, remembering a classmate’s birthday party.
We were singing silly songs back then like Sugar, Sugar and this one, which also played at the concert:
J”eremiah was a bullfrog
Was a good friend of mine
I never understood a single word he said
But I helped him a-drink his wine
And he always had some mighty fine wine
Singin’ joy to the world
All the boys and girls now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me”
~ Joy to the World by Three Dog Night
Fortunately, I wasn’t alone in my musical reverie. Everyone from retired execs to Viet Nam vets were happy to sing along, too. With the entire audience singing together, nobody felt odd, off key or left out of the collective fun.
What makes this Happy Together tour so endearing? I inquired with Stephanie Rosenberger, a retired teacher from Maine.
“It brings back memories with friends, singing, dancing together,” she mused. “We got together at each others’ houses, and we played records together.” It was not just the music, she said, but being able to experience the music together that underscored its ongoing appeal.
For me and others, the 2017 Happy Together Tour hits the mark for capturing a collective atmosphere of peace, love and happiness.
Whether you are a Baby Boomer or not, I hope you catch the entertainment this summer or just enjoy the following video.
Hear some sounds that made the sixties era special, and meet the Cowsills, too.
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