My father sat in on an L.A. studio session in 1970 during the recording of my second album, “Have You Seen Jesus My Lord?”. He was not there because he liked the music (he didn’t), he was there for me, and I appreciated that, though it would have been a lot more fun had he been engaged in some way with what was really happening that day. Unfortunately he just sat there in the control room looking overwhelmed and somewhat annoyed by the high volumes in the room, while my songs were coming to life right before his very eyes and ears.
It meant nothing to him that this collection of long-haired studio musicians he was watching out on the studio floor were some of the best rock musicians in the world. It meant nothing to him that the keyboard player at this session was the same one who created and performed the famous piano opening to “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” by Simon and Garfunkel, or that the pedal steel guitar player played on my favorite album of all time by Judy Collins, it only mattered that I was his son and he was there to support me, but that’s as far as it went. And even though he was a highly musical person (lead a dance band in college, and directed the choir in our church for decades), he made no attempt to crossover to the music of my generation.
He knew nothing of the explosion of creativity in popular music that occurred in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Never asked what groups or solo artists I liked so he could get familiar with the music and see its influence on mine. The rock music, even the more gentle folk rock music like James Taylor, never interested him and became a barrier he never sought to overcome. Chalk it up to another generation, and go home and drop a recording of his beloved Norman Luboff Choir on the turntable. That was the way it was; and that was the way it was supposed to be. One generation over here and another over there.
I’m thinking about this, now that I am on the other side of the fence and asking myself, “Am I doing the same thing as my dad?” Well with music, I’m not doing too badly. Not with Chandler playing his music as we drive around in the car and take long trips from time to time. I have a struggle with rap, but I try to hang in there and once in a while, I get it. But I’ll tell you where I am way behind with Chandler’s generation, and where I’m tempted to not do anything about it, is in the digital world and the internet. I haven’t even gotten Facebook and Twitter down, much less Instagram, Tik Tok, Discord, Clubhouse, Vimeo, WhatsApp, and on and on it goes. I just went to a website that lists “101 social networking sites you should know about in 2021.” You mean there’s more than Facebook and Twitter?
There’s a huge temptation just to joke about it and let this go, but that would be just like my dad sitting stone-faced in a recording studio. We boomers are immigrants in a country settled by millennials and Gen-zers who have been interacting digitally since they came out of the womb. It’s all second nature to them; they don’t even have to think about it. They know how to move around freely in this world; we have much to learn, but if we want to communicate and care about their generation, we have no choice. If we keep speaking only to each other we will just slowly fade into the sunset of irrelevancy. But if we have a passion for the gospel of welcome and spreading the news of grace turned outward to the world we will leave behind, we must learn to speak the language. That’s all there is to it.