I'm trying to decide which singer I'd have had a crush on if I was 30 in 1965. This would mean my formative music years came between 1950-1955, when crooners and 3 and 4-part harmonies were heavily featured on the radio. Bing Crosby, Frankie Laine, The Ames Brothers, Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, Eddie Fisher, The Four Aces, just a bit of Dean Martin, and the beginning of Frank Sinatra's comeback.
"Rock Around the Clock" was released July 9, 1955. No way I wouldn't have loved that and launched into that sound, having previously dug the swing and bebop I heard around the house. But nobody swooned over Bill Haley, as far as I know.
Me being me, it's quite likely I've have been married by then. So the next ten years would be filled with clotheslines of diapers, learning to make over the old furniture my husband and I found on weekend hunting trips, listening to the radio and saving money for a TV. Now and then attempting to be glamorous in the late evening after the kids were in bed. Going to movies, of course!
I hope that doesn't sound depressing. It's how things were, for most women, a little easier or a little harder depending. Hopefully I wouldn't have married a man who thought of me as a golden ticket inside a candy bar wrapper, only to realize later that marriage and children would require patience, effort, and dedication, instead of being a trip to a magical wonderland with all the hard icky things shoved into a drawer out of sight. That's how things often are, as well.
Back to music and singers. My musical taste is a perfect fusion of my parents' tastes, with a bit of my time period thrown in. If they were born around 1910 instead of 32 and 36, they'd have been witness to the birth of popular song on radio, the developing pop orchestra sound, lots of slow sentimental love songs mixed with ragtime and a certain amount of kitsch. They'd be used to hearing singers belt out tunes through megaphones, and marvel when that was no longer necessary. They'd listen to the radio every evening, and, of course, would also own a gramophone player. I'd have had Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby and maybe Jimmie Rodgers records passed along to me that I'd eventually share with my own kids when they were little.
My husband would be into Leonard Bernstein, and he'd dig post-Romantic, Modern, and probably Neoclassic classical music. Maybe some West Coast jazz, which I'd try to like but mostly I'd listen to pretending I didn't feel a little restless. He'd sometimes indulge my taste for crooners, rock and roll, and what was then still called "race music," but I'd end up listening to it and singing along mostly while he was at work and I was at home surrounded by endless mounds of baby laundry.
So, all of that together brings me to age 30 in 1965, a pivotal year in many areas of pop culture. And probably around the time I'd start reforming my own identity.
Seriously, as I grow older, I realize that while I was right about us all being partly nature and partly nurture, nature takes the lead, eventually. My nature is to let other people have their way most of the time, and just indulge myself in the quieter solitary hours. But I've spent the past 15 years continually having to give myself permission to do that.
When I was little, I remember my mom listening to her Tom Jones record, Live in Las Vegas. She told me she wished she could see him in concert. Lots of her friends would rather see Elvis Presley, and she couldn't understand at all what they saw in him. I remember studying that album cover and thinking about what she said.
Tom Jones is totally a better singer than Elvis was, but Elvis was so weighed down by his circumstances, wasn't he? I'd have enjoyed hearing him in later years, as we've had the opportunity to do with Frank Sinatra (post-bitter My Way years,) Tony Bennett, and, well, Tom Jones. There's no question he had a good voice. But when Elvis was in his heyday, I doubt I'd have liked him anymore than my mom did, though I'm a bit more broad-minded about music and appearances, I think.
You know who Elvis thought was cool? Dean Martin. It's true. And in 1965, Dean was 48 years old, sexist and silly, but still smart, charming, and well, sexy.
Me being me, I think I'd have "discovered" him in those TV years, and crushed on him the way I'd surely be crushing on all the handsome Western stars and sitcom fathers. Who knows where that discovery would have led? Well, used record shops, mostly. The weekly TV variety show, of course. And looking through the newspaper for late night movie listings so I could revisit his younger years. I'd still have loathed Jerry Lewis, though.
Epilogue: A dozen years after giving birth in 1965 to someone a little like me but with more of a wandering spirit and aching soul, my record collection would cover WWII big bands through late 60s Motown, yet the car radio would be tuned to disco dance music unless no one else was around. Then it would be all about me and Dean, singing along with the 8-Track player.