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Tom Brokaw, the former NBC Nightly News anchor and author of the best-selling book The Greatest Generation , has just written a new book about what another author has called “The Greater Generation.” Boom!, a collection of I-was-there reminiscences, explores the pop culture of the sixties. It is subject matter that would seem to require some knowledge of, you know, pop culture.
Or maybe not.
In an interview in this week’s Entertainment Weekly, Brokaw offers this as one of his “defining memories” of the music of the sixties: “I remember the first time I heard ‘Lay, Lady, Lay’ by Bob Dylan, played over and over one night. Everybody has those memories.”
Yes, but not everyone has a book contract.
Even more baffling are his comments about jazz. “I was a child of the ‘50s, so I was a student of cool jazz,” he says. “I was with a friend yesterday and we were at a restaurant and he looked up and said, ‘Hey, they’re playing Miles Davis and John Coltrane.’ And I thought, ‘We’re the last generation that still recognizes that.’”
It’s perhaps churlish to mock the musical commentary of a guy who never claimed to be a music critic, but this quote is just baffling. The mere fact that this stuff is programmed at all suggests that there’s a demand for it—and one that extends beyond folks like my boomer dad, who owns several CDs by both Miles and Coltrane, but probably couldn’t ID them if he heard them outside of his living room. How far out of touch—or self-aggrandizing—do you have to be to think that only the Boom! generation knows what Miles and Coltrane sound like?