Mariner watched the NetworkKnowledge (PBS) broadcast of Neil Diamond’s concert performed in 2012 at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Mariner and his wife are big fans back to the time they saw him on television in the sixties. They’ve been to the concerts. There’s something about Neil Diamond that draws his audience together. One isn’t there to enjoy a star performer; fans are there to be with Neil while he sings. Mariner and his wife have been to other concerts, too, and each has their special attraction. But Neil has the ability to draw fans to him in a way that not every bigtime singer can.
Fans are aware that Neil has allegiance to his band and the three singers who have been with him throughout. In the broadcast mariner watched, the old guys were there, Ron Tutt on drums, Dave Moscoe on keyboard, Reinie and Linda Press (bass and background singer). This concert has been a big winner over the years with all the old songs and an unbelievably errorless, high energy performance by everyone – including the audience.
Watching this concert tonight was different. It wasn’t mariner just listening to the oldies and reminiscing about young times. He sensed a time warp back to a time when America held itself together. There was no Donald, no selfish, derelict political parties, no oligarchical dominance, no ignorance about who we were or how we identified with our nation, no concern that the next generation will be poorer than the last. True, there was turmoil caused by an unpopular war, racism was deeply suppressed until the Civil Rights Act. Conversely, tribalism and identity politics did not dominate the daily news. Computerization still was a pleasant, safe element in society.
Mariner sensed how life was back then – sure, reality required maturity and responsibility – but there was no incessant angst. Generally, people had time to live a day without constant confrontation. Abuse and insecurity caused by government and self-centered corporations was not daily news; churches still were the same churches that had anchored neighborhoods and moral virtue.
Angst. That’s the difference. The twenty-first century has begun with fragmentation of who we think we should be, how we depend on our economy, and even if there will be jobs, affordable education and secure retirement – all at once. Computerization has become a tool of manipulation and slowly separates wealth between classes. “Footloose and fancy free” has a new inference: we don’t know who we are or where we’re going.
Angst. Mariner escaped it for a brief moment tonight, escaping back through a time warp with Neil.
Even back to the good old days of 2012 is a time warp. We have been travelling at warp speed since 2016–every day a new reason for angst. This essay is a wonderful tribute to the power of Neil Diamond’s music to transport us. Maybe what we all need is more music in our lives–and more poetry, more nature, and more friendship.