Thursday, May 30, 2013


Context is everything.  What may be intolerable hoke, some other time can move you to tears.  Consider Ted Lewis, then.  Oh, you know him.  "Is everybody happy!?!"  Old-time band leader.  Al Jolson era.  Guy Lombardo style -- who finished his days, in his old age, and before you were born -- playing the New Year in.  Dick Clark took over those duties upon Lombardo's passing, and after that, uh, Brian Seacrest?  -- whoever ... pardon my disregard in the matter, usually I pay heed to heritage and lineage, but in our debased culture it's like tracking gangleaders or banana republic Generalissimos.  So, yes, context is everything.

Here, then, is Ted Lewis, 1930, speaking, singing rather, to and from another era, Great Depression, so schmaltzy it's hard to suppose it's not a joke.  But people loved it.  In the era that immediately followed, America faced another enemy -- fighting for civilization, no lie, Victory Gardens and scrap rubber drives.  Suggested national speed limit was 35 miles an hour.  Coffee was rationed, and sugar, and meat. At such a time distraction and encouragement was found where it may be.  So, here, at 19:14, the same song again, from the Fred Allen Show -- Texico Star Theater, 1943. You probably don't understand.  When the audience spontaneously burst into applause, at 20:46, well, I was moved.

Of course this was not the Greatest Generation.  Look at what bad parents they were, to produce the trash of the 60s and the vapidity of the 70s.  They did their duty.  That does not make them great.  It is merely what is expected, and demanded, and required.  They were stewards of the past, but not of the future.  They fought a delaying action.  This is the generation that tollerated the normalization of abortionism.  What greater evil could they have opposed?

If only there were easy answers.  If only sentiment could also be profound.  But we have to breathe, and that means staying on the surface, mostly.


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