by Bruce Dunlavy
(My blog home page and index of other posts may be found here.)
The birth of rock-and-roll was a cultural phenomenon. There is no denying that. Music itself split parent from child and created a context in which the fallout from that phenomenon multiplied into a new culture of a new generation.
Although rock-and-roll was not entirely sui generis (see my earlier post, “Rock and Roll and Race”), it was consciously created. It was a new kind of music and its practitioners were aware that they were inventing something new.
What has not been well-remembered over the sixty-plus years since the birth of rock-and-roll is that those who invented it were young. By today’s standards, they were very young. Their musical lexicon is filled with the work of teenagers.
When The Beatles came to America in 1964, they said their best years of performing were behind them, in the clubs of Hamburg, Germany, where they played extraordinarily long, high-energy sets. Yet when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and broke the records for most-watched television programs, the oldest one of them was 23, the youngest only twenty.
The Beatles were certainly not alone in that regard. The 1950s and 1960s are replete with creative young stars. Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens died at 22 and 17, respectively. Steve Winwood fronted The Spencer Davis Group at 15 and wrote, sang, and charted two top-ten hits at age 17. At 19 he formed the influential band Traffic. The list of teenage creators can (and eventually will) fill another post here.
The reason for discussing this phenomenon is that it was the genesis of an entire culture whose influence persists to this day. The Baby Boomers who invented rock music proceeded through American demographics like a watermelon passing through a boa constrictor. Thus – although the majority of Boomers were at the time not fully tuned into the culture of rock-and-roll – the leaders of this enormous cohort took control of the phenomenon and used it to advance ancillary causes such as the antiwar movement, demands for the end of sexual and racial discrimination, and environmental consciousness. Eventually, they even won over – in practice if not in philosophy – the resisters of their own generation who had opposed them in the beginning.
It was unprecedented. Imagine – kids taking control of their own culture! Yet they did it. They did it and with it changed the world.
Now the battle is enjoined anew, with activists of a young generation rising to take control of their own culture and, by extension, their own destiny and that of their contemporaries. Among the foremost of these, as I have reported before, is Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.
In addition to his already extensive list of successes as a speaker, a rapper and musical performer, an organizer, and an activist, Xiuhtezcatl is adding – at the age of 17 – a new identifier: author. Fresh off his performance at Colorado’s Red Rocks, Xiuhtezcatl has delivered his autobiography/call-to-arms/instruction manual to publisher Rodale Books (who have given us Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth as well as such magazines as Men’s Health, Women’s Health, and Runner’s World).
Image credit: Rodale Books through xiuhtezcatl.com
We Rise: The Earth Guardians Guide to Building a Movement That Restores the Planet is previewed by Rodale at his website, as “an accessible guide to approaching the many facets of responsible advocacy, including how to work toward nonviolent and solution-oriented change, building a story of ‘now,’ using art, understanding policy and self-care.”
Within that concept is the deepest meaning of a purposeful life: living to improve the Earth, the environment, and humanity, and ensuring that you eventually leave the world as a better place because you were in it. The connection to mysticism is strong, and it is the mystics who have given us Transcendentalism, Romanticism, Existentialism, and Satyagraha. Depending on the notion of universality – universal consciousness, universal connection, universal communication, and universal responsibility – the mystics call on us to reach out and grasp our own place in the universe as a part of existence.
The philosophical underpinnings of the mystic way do not isolate its practitioners from the world. Rather, it calls them to be the formers and shapers of their own world and – as the rock-and-roll pioneers of the 1950s and 1960s – to create and take charge of their own culture and in doing so shape their own destiny. One must consider Xiuhtezcatl Martinez a mystic in that sense and in the larger sense of one who seeks to communicate with and be inspired by a universal consciousness.
Xiuhtezcatl’s book is scheduled for release in bookstores in September 2017, and it is available for pre-order now through his website. Visit or revisit the other posts I have written about this remarkable young man (he has his own menu heading on my home page) and I am sure you will want to read and heed We Rise. It promises to be a significant addition to the literature of planet-saving and people-saving. I hope you dig it.