Easy to be Hard

I found myself on the steps of Columbia University handing out flyers for presidential hopeful Eugene McCarthy.

columbia-universityIt was the late 1960’s.

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.

“How can people be so heartless
How can people be so cruel
Easy to be hard
Easy to be cold
How can people have no feelings
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be proud
Easy to say no
Especially people who care about strangers
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.

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52 Responses to Easy to be Hard

  1. Those Lyrics Van, yes timeless.. and I so thank you for sharing.. And I love Hair.. ❀ and all these years on still so apt..

  2. Erika Kind says:

    Lyrics which still fit… What a vivid time that must have been. Thank you for that review!

  3. I was very young, but how well I remember this era, especially 1968. Beautifully drawn essay with contrasts and salient cultural references. You can hold an audience of any age!

  4. Just in goosebumps. I remember when this song came out, Van, and still today the words haunt me. Beautiful post!! ❀

  5. I love the music from ‘Hair’ but that song is certainly the cream of the crop. You’ve lived through interesting times politically and now we are embarking on another interesting period not just in national but also global politics.

    • These past 2 years have been unparalleled, at least in politics and the threat of terrorism. The 60’s were challenging, but each decade seems to have its issues. Thanks, Laura. πŸ’—

  6. If everyone had the opportunity to travel, as you did back then in your formative years, we all might be much more open minded.

    • No doubt, that was the goal of our educators back then, Goose. Like any teen, I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time. In retrospect, I am surely grateful. Thanks for the observation. ☺

  7. Lady G says:

    So interesting to learn a little more about you. 🌷
    I absolutely love that song and the sentiment.

  8. I had the Hair album, Van. What a powerful and, sadly, timeless song. I’d forgotten about it. *Sigh*

  9. thelostmango says:

    Wow! Impressive! I love your photos! I just posted my London, Paris and Italy trip! I just followed you too! Let’s keep connected! https://thelostmango.wordpress.com

  10. TanGental says:

    ah yes, confusing though growing times; so much going on that doesn’t make sense. Remind me of something?

  11. George says:

    Great story and a terrific song. It’s hard to explain that time to people unless they were there. When you think back on everything that went on it gives us hope today that we came out on the other side back then.

  12. C.E.Robinson says:

    Van, I remember those times! Even saw “Hair” on broadway! Played the album over and over! I was in my early 20s, married with 2 kids, wore mini-skirts, tie died shirts and a leather barrette on a long ponytail A lot of change going on, and uncertainty. πŸ’› Christine

  13. amommasview says:

    Our school actually organized “Hair” to be performed at the school by the professional group that was in charge of the musical back then in Switzerland (maybe Europe in general???). It was amazing! And I remember the reaction when the lights went back on and everyone on stage was naked…

    • They allowed the nudity in a high school performance ??? Wow…that is really progressive, makes me happy. They made such a big deal about it back in the day…it was done so artfully, it was hardly memorable, and it fit the scene perfectly. Thanks for sharing that, Sandra. πŸ’•

  14. megdekorne says:

    ” a tribal rock musical ” … wow Van , I so remember this ! Thank you for posting the original version along with the lyrics…and your thoughtful and meaningful memories … love , megxxx

  15. lbeth1950 says:

    I must be the only person who missed the sixties. I never branched out far enough to have any of the experiences . I never even knew about Woodstock. All I did was study and work. What a waste.

  16. joey says:

    Since I didn’t live then, it’s a fascinating time to me. I think it’s that way for a lot of us. We’re mystified by the music and the speeches at the time, the sheer revolution of it all. Look what people did. That period in history continues to inspire.

  17. Deb says:

    Wow that brought back a lot of memories. I remember that song and the feelings the words evoked in me. What an experience that must have been for you, especially being a teenager, very impressionable years!

  18. dgkaye says:

    I always loved that song, and Three Dog Night’s music. How fitting the song and your story making full circle in today’s times. πŸ™‚

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