When Tina “the Queen of Rock ’n Roll” Turner died recently, the digital music universe reverberated in tribute by presenting her feisty renditions of Proud Mary, What’s Love Got to Do With It?, and You Better Be Good to Me. Ranging from her early, turbulent days with Ike Turner to her supercharged career revival complete with film appearances and title songs, we became immersed in memories of Tina … for a week.
Weeks before, Canadian folk legend Gordon Lightfoot passed away, and we were in the Early Morning Rain on Carefree Highway and reliving the enduring tragedy of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Lightfoot’s music had such a profound impact that in his honor, at “the sailors’ maritime cathedral” as he called it, actually The Mariners’ Church of Detroit, the bell that had been rung 29 times to honor those lost when the giant ore freighter went down in a freak 1975 storm was rung 30 times in 2023 to honor the sailors and Lightfoot.
And, then there was David
One of the truly enigmatic creative giants of the contemporary music world who died within the past year was David Crosby. Twice inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Crosby was a founding member of the Byrds, a sixties folk-rock group that enjoyed towering success covering Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man and a hypnotic rendering of Pete Seeger’s treatment of the opening verses of Chapter Three of the Book of Ecclesiastes, Turn, Turn, Turn.
The Byrds were just the beginning for Crosby, however, who forged a second towering career when he joined Stephen Stills and Graham Nash to create the enduring, ethereal sound of Crosby, Stills & Nash. At times, the trio was joined by Neil Young who had worked with Stills as part of Buffalo Springfield.
Since David Crosby had enjoyed two legendary (and tumultuous) careers, audio services got to reach deeply into the digital archives to resurrect classics like Eight Miles High, Marrakesh Express, and another song written by Graham Nash, Teach Your Children.
The simple irony of that song – parents teaching their children and children returning the compliment and teaching their parents – leapt from its release on CSN’s debut 1969 album 54 years to a time when many of the group’s original fans already had children and even grandchildren.
Do you remember?
Some may have grown weary of the repeated invoking of George Santayana’s philosophic curse, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Weary as we may be, however, the saying continues to haunt us, and hearing the distant echoes of Nash’s lyrics sung elegantly by Crosby, Stills & Nash only seems to make the revelation more painful.
What have we learned? What are we teaching? Does the enjoinder still work?
Lightfoot’s songs were often presented as short stories, reflections on events that had been emotionally tragic. Beyond the sinking of a freighter in a turbulent lake there were moments of regret, of love lost, of chances not taken.
Tina Turner had a flare for the high energy pronouncements about love and identity and the strength needed to move on in life as well as in love. She became an icon for escaping a physically and emotionally abusive relationship to emerge as a model of strength and defiance.
Bursting onto the pop culture scene when issues swirling around the War in Vietnam, the assassinations of towering public figures, the forceful energizing of the Civil Rights Movement, and the blossoming, struggling of a generation mixing rebellion with the search for “peace,” Crosby, Stills & Nash held up a mirror to that generation … a mirror that continues to reflect. Tight and hypnotic as their harmonies were, the underlying messages emerged as the most powerful element of their performances.
David Crosby’s passing and brief musical resurrection across the airwaves reminded us that Teach Your Children is a love song … a sincere invitation to reach across generations and form bonds, not barriers. CSN may be back out of the automated song rotation, but the lyrics resonate.
And teach your parents well
Their children’s hell will slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they pick’s the one you’ll
Don’t you ever ask them, “Why?”
If they told you, you will cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you •