Rock music is like a foreign language to me even though I graduated from high school in 1966 and college in 1970.

Like many explanations of my most anomalous behaviors, this one goes back to being Mennonite. And a little geeky (meaning bookish–not a math whiz!) on top of that.

I like to joke that I sang alto to the Beatles. And the Mamas and the Papas. And Simon and Garfunkel and Joan Baez and John Prine and even Janis Joplin. That’s about as much 60’s music as I remember. And after the 70’s I hardly paid attention at all to pop and rock.

I’ve been spending a portion of my late 50’s and early 60’s “making up for the sobriety of my youth,” to quote Jenny Joseph’s “When I Am an Old Woman.” Stuart and I took dance classes for two years, trying to find a little rhythm and erase some memories of sitting on the sidelines in gym class as our classmates do-si-doed with their partners.


So, when I learned that Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and John Mellencamp were doing a 4th of July concert in South Bend this year, I had to act. We were among the 10,000 who purchased tickets.

My FaceBook friends have asked me, “how was it”?

I wish I could give you details on who was “covering” which songs and how they differed from 100 other versions in 100 other settings. Sorry. Can’t do it.

I noticed that the short review in the South Bend Tribune included no musical information either. But you can see some pictures and even catch a little video here.

What I enjoyed most was inching my way toward the stage, feeling the beat grab my heart and almost rip it out of my chest, and snagging a few pictures. Here’s one of Bob Dylan:


When Dylan sang one of the few songs I recognized, “Just Like a Woman” and “Like a Rolling Stone,” it was thrilling to sway along with the crowd. For once, I let myself feel like a member of my own generation enjoying music that will last for many more.

It rained most of the evening, but not enough to really dampen spirits. There was both a festive and a nostalgic atmosphere.  Yes, children were turning cartwheels, and yes there were college students, but the average age was probably 45-55, and many hoary heads and a few canes and wheelchairs were interspersed among the crowd.

Like the corn growing a few miles from the stadium, the boomers were aging almost visibly in a setting like this one. Their younger selves hung over the stadium like a cloud. Mellencamp’s new songs are all about death, and Michael Jackson had just died. The country itself no longer seems young.

Those were some of my thoughts. Willie Nelson came on last, and he was the singer whose songs Stuart and I knew best, dating from our grad school days in Austin.  His command of the stage at age 76 served as an antidote to the lingering air of sadness Bob Dylan always invokes in me.

Willie’s songs are old-fashioned narratives. He sang variations close enough to the recorded classics to be recognized but new enough to keep life interesting on the lonesome road again.

We headed home, holding hands, as fireworks burst in the air. Two aging boomers who weren’t at Woodstock, literally or figuratively, not ashamed to seek out their first rock concert.  Even if they did not know the words.

Shirley Showalter


  1. babsland on July 11, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I think it is high time for Mom and Dad to do something like this. The last time they went to anything not resembling classical music or 4-part a capella (to my knowledge) was when they went to see Peter, Paul, and Mary on their honeymoon. (I think I am remembering that correctly).

  2. shirleyhs on July 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    I should have put Peter, Paul, and Mary in the list of music I remember above. We'll see if Harley and Sadie read this blog and decide to do something really surprising–go to their own rock concert.

  3. Chelsea on July 12, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    That's pretty amazing (first rock concert). I'm glad it was a good experience. Maybe more?

  4. shirleyhs on July 12, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    We'll see. Maybe if I have a personal guide by the side. 🙂

  5. Gutsywriter on July 12, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Great photo of you two dancing. I have never been to a rock concert. I grew up in the Disco era, and loved to dance in nightclubs to Donna Summer, Gladys Night and the Pips, etc. I thoght it funny how you described some of those attending in their canes and wheelchairs. Makes me feel older ,just hearing that.

  6. shirleyhs on July 14, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Your memories of the Disco era might make a good blog post, Sonia. And yes, the concert did make me feel old, but ironically, it also brought back a piece of youth I had missed. Strange combination.

  7. Gutsywriter on July 14, 2009 at 5:38 am

    Shirley,That's a good idea. I shall keep it in mind for a future blog post, although I'm blogging less due to finishing my manuscript revisions, and vacation to some Florida islands off Ft. Myers at the end of August. Do you know Pine Island, Sanibel Island, etc?

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