In 1966 John Denver wrote the song “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” When I was growing up, I didn’t like that song. The version I heard the most when I was young was the one by Peter, Paul and Mary. I think we learned it in kindergarten.
Yes, Peter, Paul and Mary were part of the 1960s, but other artists produced what I thought (even in kindergarten, I think) was a lot more interesting work (Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones. . . the list goes on and on. . . Ok, maybe I didn’t listen to Hendrix and the Stones in kindergarten, but Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” was a song we knew.).
So it kind of surprised me when I came across this version of that song a few years ago and found that I actually liked it. It’s by Palmy, a singer in Thailand who is of Thai-Belgan ancestry and who grew up in Australia.
Maybe I’m getting too deep here, but when I see/hear a performance like this, I have all of these “visions” of the past that come to my mind.
I think of the 1960s, the Cold War, the social turmoil in the US, the utter destruction that the US brought to mainland Southeast Asia (one of my earliest memories is of hearing the “body count” on TV).
And in realizing that this is sung by someone whose parents are of different nationalities, I think of Thailand’s intense contact with “development” during the “American era,” the political turmoil of the 1970s, etc.
And then after thinking about all of that historical stuff, I think about how after all of that struggle and destruction and change we have a talented and attractive young woman singing a sweet song that was first performed in the midst of that turmoil several decades ago by some of the more conservative artists of that time.
So what does it all mean?
Does it mean that all of that conflict had a purpose and was moving societies toward something better? Or does it mean that it was all for nothing, and that people should have forgotten what they were struggling/fighting for and listened to the sappy love songs of Peter, Paul and Mary in the 1960s?
Maybe something else?
I still don’t think that listening to Peter, Paul and Mary in the 1960s was a good idea, but as for the rest. . .