Old world wisdom, new world insight – poems, poetry, philosophy, dreams, commentary, ideas

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #11

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

The best part of growing up is finally getting into high school and then graduating. The worst part of growing up is finally getting into high school and then graduating. There are not equal parts of happiness and sadness. There are mostly sad and emotional issues for everybody involved. Going from teenager to adult is not easy. It is how we react to those situations that either force us to be “just like everyone else” or cause us to invent our own kind of “normal.” Most of us have looked in the mirror and wanted to change something about ourselves or our lives. Usually because we have compared ourselves to others, we ended up feeling like we were the ones lacking something. But, high school is a product of where we live. Almost nobody can go to high school in another state, like we can for college. So, it is our neighborhood that determines the social order of our teenage years that we struggle against.

Fighting the forces of hormones, emotion, social cliques and destructively selfish children are the topics that American singer-songwriter Janis Ian (born Janis Eddy Fink) wrote about in her early career. Janis was born in New York and cut her teeth in the folk music scene during 1960s as a teenager. Her first hit was “Society’s Child” and it made it to #13 on the Cash Box Pop Singles chart in 1965.  As a performer she took on quite a bit as a 14 year old.  That song’s focus was interracial romance.  The reality of social pressures from parents and schoolmates forced the girl to end her relationship in the song.

Not being able to “deal with the pressure” is not a failing of any young person who wants to have a friendship or something more meaningful with another person. Janis decided to speak about this in her music. After releasing several unranked songs that achieved critical acclaim, she ultimately wrote a song that struck the most sensitive nerve with young women (even to this day). She composed a song that unreservedly pointed to the cruel way  in which young women were and still are treated poorly by insensitive boys. She also exposed most young women’s secret misgiving, that they feel ugly because they are not accepted by those same selfish people and their high school peers.

Life is what we make it. So, if it is a struggle, we either gear up and learn to push back, or we just go along to get along. Either way, we make an active choice to get from 9th grade into 12th grade. This can be a skill that translates into surviving adult society’s pressures. But, why should we only survive in this world when we can live the way we want and love ourselves in the process?

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