I found myself on the steps of Columbia University handing out flyers for presidential hopeful Eugene McCarthy.
I was there for a high school journalism conference, a teenager in New York City for 4 days of culture shock, and the start of my personal political awareness.
Living on the poor side of a small blue collar steel town in Pennsylvania, I knew very little about McCarthy.
I just knew he spoke to ending the war in Vietnam. By then, so many neighbors and friends had come home in a body bag. We were angry, scared, confused, clinging to hope, praying for change.
So when we came upon the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), we joined in the protests, with the support of our teacher chaperone.
I didn’t know my parents’ politics. Dad was a union steelworker, my mother still in mourning for JFK. Politics was seen as a luxury for folks who had time, not for families just struggling to survive.
McCarthy didn’t get the nomination, nor did Robert Kennedy, assassinated in the middle of his campaign. Martin Luther King, a voice of hope and peace, was cut down in his prime. We were one year away from landing on the moon. Vietnam raged on, Nixon found his way to the White House.
It was a confusing time to be a teenager.
And in the middle of that same field trip, “Hair” opened on Broadway. It was billed as a tribal love rock musical; it came with a controversial anti-war message, and some memorable lyrics and music.
We had tickets. It left an impression.
This piece, later made famous by the group Three Dog Night, was one of the most haunting, with lyrics that might just be timeless. Easy to be Hard.
Easy to be hard
Easy to be cold
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be proud
Easy to say no
Who care about evil and social injustice
Do you only care about the bleeding crowd
How about a needing friend, I need a friend”
Hair has been redone on Broadway, was made into a movie, but this is the original version, sung by Lynn Kellogg.
Written by Jerome Ragni and James Rado, with music by Galt MacDermot.