Since the news has become All Michael Jackson All The Time, it was inevitable, no matter how I tried to resist, that I would have to put up a Michael Jackson post. But this won’t be the one you expect.
Full disclosure, I was never a huge fan, so my mind is free to roam, when the subject is Michael Jackson, to other tangentially related topics. Today, it’s Generations. It all started when a self-identified Generation X blogger I read reprinted an article about how the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett were a great loss for Generation X. Yet, she was focussing only on the Billie Jean years. I know she’s young enough that she probably has no memory of Michael as part of The Jackson Five and bopping out to Rockin’ Robin and ABC, especially since Michael burst on the scene in 1968, a year after this blogger was born. Now me, I remember those songs, because I am exactly Michael Jackson’s age. (Well, at least chronologically. The latest news is making it clear he was a very different physical and mental age.) But are Michael and me Generation X? What generation are we? I’ve always been confused on this point.
Let’s get some ground rules down. Although some reports have the Baby Boomers born from 1945 to 1965 and others peg Gen X from 1961 to 1981, I categorically reject that. If a generation is defined as a group of people, who by birth time, have a set of shared experiences, cultural and historical references and rituals, how can a generation encompass a group where the eldest could have given birth to the youngest? No, for me a generation can’t be more than 10 years — Zeitgeist Siblings, if you will. Maybe in some periods it extended a bit beyond ten years, maybe in other times of rapid cultural shifts, it’s a bit less than ten years. But ten years is pretty much the standard. That lets those who were born in the eleven years between 1916 and 1927 qualify as the Greatest Generation. They came of age during the Great Depression and were all of them old enough to have fought in World War Two. That lets my parents out of that group as both were in early high school and junior high by 1945. So, even though my parents remember the Depression and World War II, they weren’t trying to gain employment during the former or fighting or waving off a contemporary to fight in the latter. That makes a big divide between them and people a little bit older. I’d say that dividing line marks the end of one generation and the start of another.
Likewise, I don’t see myself as a Baby Boomer. I remember Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and Ina Gadda Davida. My baby sitters used to play those songs. I remember Viet Nam. But it wasn’t a war my contemporaries fought. My father did. I knew someone who joined the SDS. She was the much, much older sister of a friend and when she came to our house, she sat with the adults. My brother, her sister and I sat at the children’s table. So I’d say, that generational divide was pretty clear.
Just as the Baby Boomers like to claim they invented everything from Rock to Civil Disobedience, Gen X, at least in many of the articles I’ve read, screams loudly that they brought down the Berlin Wall. They also claim Grunge as their music. Desert Storm was “their war”. If those cultural touchstones define them, let’s figure out who was 18 to 29 around that time. Well, the youngest veterans of Desert Storm would have to have been born in 1973 to be 18 at the time of the war. Grunge hit it big in the early 90s, so lets cap the generation at those who had not yet reached thirty by 1992 — the year after Nevermind hit it big and Nirvana played the MTV Awards. That’s people who were born no earlier than 1963. So can we peg Generation X at roughly 1963 to 1973?
So if Gen X is 1963-1973 and the Baby Boomers are 1945 to 1955 — old enough for the Summer of Love (1967), Woodstock (1969) and still in danger of being drafted (the Draft ended in 1973) — where does that leave those of us born between 1955 and 1963?
Wikipedia has an answer. We are Generation Jones.
“Jonesers were the people who as teens in the 1970s made this slang word [Jonesing] popular, but beyond this historical claim, many believe the concept of jonesing is among this generation’s key collective personality traits.Jonesers were given huge expectations as children in the 1960s, and then confronted with a different reality as they came of age in the 1970s, leaving them with a certain unrequited, jonesing quality.”
Yup, that’s us. Remember the Recession and the Gas Crisis? Yeah, we couldn’t tune in, turn on and drop out then come back from the Peace Corps or a commune and walk right into a good job. And we were struggling out of college for that first professional job in a tougher time than a later generation that could leap from barista to Vice President in the Dot Com era. Apparently we always were and still are jonesing for a better deal.
But I’ll tell you what, Generation X. Michael Jackson, for better or worse, is OURS. You might have been just old enough to go to the roller rink and skate to Billie Jean and Thriller. Yeah, we did that too. But we were also in elementary school and junior high boppin’ to Rockin’ Robin with a similarly aged Michael, who at that time was a Black kid sporting a purple pimp hat and a polyester jump suit.
And you know who else we have in our camp?
It’s a bit late, but, as Generation Jones, we’re finally coming into our own.
Thanks for giving me definition.
I don’t think Generation X is claiming Jackson is an Xer – only that we came of age with his music.
Except you didn’t. Any more than I came of age with Beatles music. Oh, they were playing while I was growing, but they were a Baby Boomer thing. Billie Jean was late in his oeuvre. Where were you when he was still Black and Human? Not born, that’s what.
I am suspicious of any social phenomenon arbitrarily anchored (at either end) to 1963; had it not been for That Day In Dallas, no one would be paying any attention to that year anymore. And really, the Boomers shouldn’t even be starting until 1946 – nine months after the end of WWII.
(Disclosure: I am clearly among the Boomers, having been born in 1953. I identify with them when it’s to my advantage, and I denounce them when it’s convenient.)
Well, if your dad was the first guy off the boat after VE Day and you were a preemie, you could be born in 1945. But more likely, since troop strength was being wound down toward April 1945, your Dad got back earlier or married an Italian, German or French girl and still had you in 1945.
But I still maintain that, even though we aren’t that far apart in birth years, the fact that you were born in 1953 meant you were old enough to be drafted and serve in Viet Nam. I, on the other hand, was on the playground trading the Michael Jackson cards that came with my bubble gum. 1963 normally doesn’t mean much to my generation, another reason why we aren’t Boomers. Except for me because of unusual circumstances. My father was an Army officer with a specialty in strategic weaponry and I remember a jeep coming for him and his being whisked off to the Pentagon as the country went on alert (behind the scenes and on the down low.)
funny that we never saw osama bin laden and michael jackson together…makes you think, doesn’t it? c.i.a. hit.
Wow. This post took some turns! I was expecting something related to all the overblown MJ Tributes and your post went a totally different direction, with your “re-writing” of the generations! Always something unexpected at LCC 😀
Well, I resisted the Michael Jackson sobfest for days. And I’ve already got my second MJ post cued up for tomorrow and maybe a third one after that.
Dang it. I returned to read the comments and what a surprise. Holy smokes…nothing what I expected it to be. Funny though.
I did in fact have a draft card. (I may still have it around here somewhere; rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, I did not actually burn it.)
As it turned out, Uncle Sam decided he needed my meager (at that age, anyway) talents in the Middle East, rather than along the Pacific Rim.
My baby sister >) shares that same birth year with Obama ( and George Clooney who most of us in Kentucky think of as a distant relation). I’ve never bought the mega-length of 1946-1964 span for boomers that I have always been given. That spread was based upon the downward shift in births I believe. Maybe it had something to do with childbearing age of the wives. When I was growing up it was common to have three or four siblings in a household.
I was born in 52 and no way in hell would I have hitched to Woodstock. My cousin and I bought the album with our babysitting money though.
Some car ad has been using “I’ll be There” for a while now. Every time I heard that sweet little boy MJ voice I smiled, even after the horror stories of the abusive childhood. Show biz is a strange world. Only the tough really survive. RIP, Michael.
I’m also a proud member of generation jones – though I’d never heard that term before this very moment. And how apt is that description of ‘our’ generation!
(confession – I found my way over here after you confessed your opinion that Donny Osmond was underrated. We are of a like mind on this.)
Interesting comments about Michael Jackson. I just want to add how sad Jackson’s sudden death is. He was truly original and will be the ‘King of Pop’ for a long time to come.
Someone posted all we gen X’ers feel Donny Osmond was under-rated.
Not true. No one of the gen X’ers including myself ever felt this.
He was a silly teen idol.
Michael Jackson was a national treasure.
meant to say gen jones, just tired. am a jones and my friends are too