Pearls & Vodka

Drunks: Do you belong to your generation, or to the world?

With the gentle acoustic hums of two brilliant voices, slowly and organically, “Drunks” evolves into a rousing anthem of a geneartion and their hope for solidarity.

If you have never heard of JohnnySwim, climb out from under the rock you are living under and download their music immediately. Many were first introduced to Amanda Sudano-Ramirez and her husband Abner Ramirez on the popular HGTV show, “Fixer Upper.” The husband-wife duo appears in several episodes of the hit show, including Chip’s birthday party at the farmhouse hosted by his wife, Joanna. Their hit song, “Home” is the theme song for the show as well.

My friend Karen asked me the other day what kind of music they play. I struggled to answer because “awesome” doesn’t seem to be a genre. They are officially defined as American folk, soul, blues, and pop. I’m not sure I see the “pop” to their music, it just has so much more depth than that genre typically presents.

What many don’t know about the duo is that Amanda is the daughter of the late, great, Queen of Disco, Donna Summer. The couple met in Nashville and live in Los Angeles now, and the vibe of both cities is evident in their music.

JohnnySwim has also been the foder of some Twitter buzz lately as Jonathan Martin was a guest at their show on the campus of Liberty University when campus president Jerry Falwell Jr. had Mr. Martin removed. I’ve blogged about that situation previously here on this blog. But my post today is not about the insanity of Mr. Falwell, but about some lyrics of JohnnySwim that have reached the inner depths of my soul.

I wanna write a song the drunks all sing
And the sober sing along
One that’s for the man in the ring
To suddenly feel strong
I wanna hear what the Angels played
When they walked my daddy home
I wanna write a song the drunks all sing
And I hope you sing along

Oh, oh, oh
Raise a glass and sing along

I wanna learn what David played
When he found himself alone
Let it ring, let it ring
On every street and stage
Till the loneliest feel known
A melody my mama hums
When I’ve forgotten my way home
I wanna sing what David sang
Oh won’t you sing along

Oh, oh, oh
Raise a glass and sing along

And If the walls of Jericho
Could crash on down to just a tune
I bet our walls could fall also
Even if only me and you sing

Oh, oh, oh
Raise a glass and sing along

What are we giving to our sons and daughters?
What do we give if we ain’t loving?
What are we giving to our sons and daughters?
If we can’t love then we ain’t learning
What are we giving to our sons and daughters?
What do we give if we ain’t loving?

I wanna write a song the drunks all sing
The sober sing along
A song for you and me
This is our song

What are we giving to our sons and daughters?
What do we give if we ain’t loving?
What are we giving to our sons and daughters?
If we can’t love then we ain’t learning
What are we giving to our sons and daughters?
What do we give if we ain’t loving?
What are we give, what are we giving? [1]

Gosh, I love this song. Just reading the words will likely not do it justice, you have to take a listen here.

In an interview with PopMatters, Abner said “Drunks is a song that comes from the belief that there is more that unites us than divides us. Democrat, Republican. Religious, Atheist. Sober or drunk. It’s our audible peace pipe, where for at least this moment, we’re breathing the same air, we’re singing the same song.” [2]

We are a country divided.

If those words shock you, or you disagree with them, I’d question again what rock you might be under. Our political differences have taken center stage, but we’ve been divided a lot longer than the 2016 President Election lasted. If you study American history, it seems like every generation has faced a great juxtapose of differences.

We have six living generations in our nation right now; one of which sadly the population is dwindling quickly.

The GI Generation consists of those born from 1901-1926; they were children of the WWI generation and fought in WWII. They were young children growing up during the Great Depression. Their generation was thought to have “saved the world” and then “built a nation.” They believe in a near absolute set of standards of right and wrong. They have a very strong sense of personal, civic duty, they vote, they work in their community, they are team players. They are strongly loyal to jobs, groups they belong to and schools they attended. They never knew much of retirement; they simply worked till they died. They are the last generation to remember life without airplanes, radio or TV. Most of these people grew up without our modern conveniences like refrigerators, electricity and air conditioning. They are often referred to as The Greatest Generation. [3]

The next is the Silent Generation, those born between 1927-1945. They experienced their formative years during the postwar happiness: Peace! Jobs! Suburbs! Television! Rock ‘n Roll! Cars! Playboy Magazine! There was a giant divide between these factors and the era of suffocating conformity. This was the generation of the Korean and Vietnam War. Their generation experienced the “first hopeful drumbeats of civil rights.” This was the era of pre-feminist women; the women stayed home to raise children and if they did work it was in jobs that were predominantly female-like teachers, nurses or secretaries. Most men pledged their loyalty to their companies, working for the same place for life. Their generation is known to be the richest, most free-spending retirees in history. Having children out of wedlock or divorcing was not acceptable; marriage was for life. The biggest complaints teachers had about students back then was passing notes or chewing gum in class. They were the generation of Big-Band/Swing music. They believed in near-absolute truths. They were disciplined, self-sacrificing and cautious. [3]

And then came the Baby Boomers; born between 1946-1964. There were two sub-sets of this generation from the beginning; the first was the save-the-world revolutionaries of the 60s and 70s and secondly, the party-hardy career climbers, also known as “Yuppies” of the 70s and 80s. They were the “me” generation. They ushered in the free love and “non-violent” protests, which inevitably led to violence. They were known to be self-righteous and self-centered. They were the first generation to be consumed with charging everything to a credit card. They were also too busy to be involved in their community but still had strong desires to change everything. This was the first generation that saw mothers working outside of the home more often. The first TV generation. Divorce became more acceptable in this generation. Homosexuals began to be accepted by some. This generation was optimistic, driven, team-oriented. This is one of the largest generations in history with somewhere around 77 million people. [3]

Those born from 1965-1980 are known as Generation X. The “latch-key kids.” Often coming from divorced, or career-driven, parents, many came home from school every day to an empty house. They are the entrepreneurs. The idea of government or big business means very little to them. They want to save their neighborhoods, not the world. They feel very misunderstood. They are cynical of the institutions that failed their parents. Most remember being in school without computers and then being in middle school or high school when they were introduced. They are more of a generation committed to themselves instead of a specific career or organization. Individuals become disposable to them. AIDS began to spread during this generation’s upbringing. The biggest problem in the schools was drugs. This generation was later to marry and quick to divorce, many single parents existed. They were very into labels and brand names, and very in debt to their credit card companies. They are known to be self-absorbed, suspicious of all organizations, survivors, cautious, skeptical, unimpressed with authority and self-reliant. [3]

Generation Y are those born between 1981 and 2000. There is some overlap with the Millennials towards the end of this generation. We are known as the 9/11 Generation, the “Echo Boomers.” Generation Y is nurtured by omnipresent parents, they are optimistic, focused, respect authority. Falling crime rates, falling teen pregnancy rates, hindered by school safety issues. We are schedulers, under a lot of academic pressure. We are a generation of people who have high expectations on ourselves. We prefer digital literacy. We’ve barely known the world without computers. We prefer to work in teams. We see the world as a 24/7 pace; we want it fast and immediately. We’ve been told repeatedly we are special, and we expect the world to treat us that way. We prefer a more relaxed work environment. [3]

And those who were born after 2001, Generation Z, “Boomlets” or Millennials. 2006 was the year of births with a record number in the US, 49% of which were Hispanic. This introduced the melting pop concept to the United States. Rodriguez has replaced Smith as the most common last name. There are the tweens and the toddler/elementary aged children in this generation. Somewhere around $51 billion is spent by Tweens, and another $170 billion is spent on them. This generation is known for their personal devices and constant access to them. They have “eco-fatigue” as they are tired of hearing about the environment and ways to save it. Many long-time successful brands like Mattel, the maker of Barbies, suffers from this generations savvy consumer lifestyle. [3]

The generations we were born into and the generations we were raised by play heavily into our belief systems and our political ideologies. It today’s world, you are either disgusted by Roy Moore’s behavior and sit quietly by, or you are posting on your social media campaigns constantly about your disdain for his atrocities and begging the good folks of Alabama to think better of voting for him; or you sit quietly by, not a fan particularly of the age difference, but thinking that folks private lives should stay private.

Our approach to everything in life is different based on generations. We process events differently. We speak differently on news topics. We are more or less informed by television networks and social media platforms. Our votes are swayed by tax reform or Kanye West’s support. We donate to candidates and parties based on our view of the issues, whether they are black and white or they are a myriad of gray hues.

We are different.

I was raised by a Baby Boomer and a member of the Silent Generation.

My Dad was born in the summer of 1933. He was one of 10 children. Having gotten in trouble one day at school in ninth grade, he was fearful to face my Grandfather, so instead of returning home that night, he went and enlisted in the Army and shipped off to South Carolina for basic training. At 15 he found himself in Germany as a trained clerk with the Armored Calvary. He was a Circle C Cowboy, an elite mechanized police force with significant combat capabilities. They were tasked with searching for loot that the Nazis had stolen and brought back to Germany, locating and arresting Nazis for war crimes and acting as a police force to combat the chaos of the end of the war. He was discharged in 1950 when my Grandfather finally located him and blew the whistle on his age. He returned to Arkansas, obtained his GED, and re-enlisted a year later in the Air Force. He went on to serve a combined total of 23 years in the military. He retired as a Chief Master Sergeant. He flew in and out of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos, greeted going both directions by enemy fire. After his military career ended in 1974, he became a government employee until he retired. He spent his retirement serving the VFW, our church, and our community. He was disciplined. Waking every morning before the sun to have his quiet time. He ironed, everything. He made his bed every day. He did yard work, meticulously. My mom was born in the winter of 1955, a member of the Baby Boomers. A twin, adopted by a family in South Arkansas. Her father owned and operated a restaurant in their small town, a town heavily impacted by the “Oil-boom” and the decline. Her mother worked in the restaurant as well, at the cash register. She and her twin brother, and younger sister, also began working from a very early age at the Town House Motel & Restaurant. She went away to college, after graduating high school early. She went on to grad school and received her masters. After her master’s degree, my Mom has only worked for two community mental health agencies. She began at the agency in her hometown, and then moved to a more thriving area where she stayed at one long enough to become a vice president, and is now the CEO of the one she first started out with in her hometown. Driven is exactly the word I would use to describe her.

I was raised as an only child, though my Dad had children from previous marriages. I grew up in the typical middle-class home. I never went without. I never wondered where my next meal would come from in the sense of not knowing if I would actually get one. I always had name brand clothing with all the labels I wanted. Though my Dad did struggle with my desire for expensive shoes and jeans. I went to private school, my entire life, including in college. I got a car for my 16th birthday. And several more after. I got an allowance, and I don’t recall ever doing chores for it. I am a member of Generation Y; born in 1983. Allegedly 1983 is the last year of the non-Millenial Generation Y. I was raised by parents who were always around. I was raised to with manners and to always respect authority. I was lucky enough to never be the victim of school violence issue. Drinking at the powerlines was about the only trouble we got into. I graduated college, received my MBA, and will be completing a second masters degree in May. Academic pressure is something I can relate to, more self-imposed as I’ve gotten older. I’d actually say it’s the pressure of the working world to have the next best degree to get “a leg up.” I have zero patience. I want answers immediately, and I want information instantly. I’m a digital person. I read on my tablet. I write on my laptop. I always have my cell phone nearby. And yes, my Momma does still tell me I’m special because I am!

So, what does all of this have to do with JohnnySwim?

A lot actually.

Each generation has wanted to be known and to be heard. Their battle-cries have had different tones, but the message has always been the same. “I wanna write a song the drunks all sing, And the sober sing-along.” Before you jump off my blog to make a donation to the Southern Baptist Convention simply because drinking has been mentioned here, stop and think about it outside of your narrow-view of the word drunk. The reality is we all want to preach a message, whether by words or by actions, that everyone hears and accepts. We want our thoughts and feelings to be OK with the general population around us. Whether that’s who we love, or what color we are.

One that’s for the man in the ring, To suddenly feel strong.” Regardless of what generation you were born into, you wanted to have an impact. Whether it was in the world, or your neighborhood, or simply your circle. Inherently we want to make a lasting change that we are remembered for.

I lost my Dad in 2006, a topic that has been, and will always be, frequently discussed here. “I wanna hear what the Angels played When they walked my Daddy home.” Man, this line chokes me up every time. But it’s true. We all want to know, deep in our soul, what happens when we go. We all yearn to know, without a doubt, if what we have been taught is real and true.

“I wanna learn what David played When he found himself alone.” Here’s the thing, even if you aren’t religious, whatever that means today, you’ve likely heard of David. If you are religious, or Christian I should say, you’ve likely heard the saying, “David was a man after God’s own heart.” And if you grew up as a “church-rat” like me, there every time the doors were open, you know that David was far from perfect. He was an adulterer that thought murdering a woman’s husband was a better solution to his infidelity than repentance. To know who he was in the most intimate of times would be to know who God saw him as. To know God said David was a man after his own heart means that whatever “song” he played when he was alone was beautiful to the ears of our Creator.

And if the walls of Jericho could crash on down to just a tune, I bet our walls could fall also.” You may not see it as I do, but I see that as one of the most powerful lyrics in music today. We have walls up everywhere, and no, not just the see-thru wall Donald Trump wants to build on the border. We have walls built up between us and those of other nationalities, religions, colors, domestic makeup, partners, and generations. We build walls between us and those who think, feel and see differently than us. We build walls up to keep those who are different than us, away from us. The Battle of Jericho was the first battle of the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan. The great wall itself fell while Joshua’s Israelite army marched around it blowing their horns. And here’s why that matters: our walls that separate us all could fall too if we’d all just “raise a glass and sing along.” And no, sweet little church lady, that doesn’t mean you have to start drinking to break down the walls, though some of you could sure use a stiff drink to loosen up. It really just means that we all have the same blood, under our skin, under our clothes, behind our relationships, behind our voices, behind our ideologies, we are all the same. We all share the same blood.

So “let it ring, let it ring, On every street and every stage, till the loneliest feel known.

[1] https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnnyswim/drunks.html; Writer(s): Amanda Sudano Ramirez, Abner Ramirez, Matthew

[2] https://www.popmatters.com/johnnyswim-drunks-audio-premiere-2495414294.html

[3] http://www.marketingteacher.com/the-six-living-generations-in-america/

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