The more I think about "America: A Tribute to Heroes," Friday night's unprecedented multinetwork benefit for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the more I'm troubled by my Baby Boom generation and its myopia.
The telethon, simultaneously televised on 30 broadcast and cable networks, was an admirable, heartfelt project. A logistical nightmare to pull off -- comparable to staging an Oscar broadcast on a few days' notice -- it was presented with scarcely a detectable glitch. Everyone from A-list movie stars to stagehands to network executives donated their time. Musical performers from Bruce Springsteen to Mariah Carey sang their hearts out.
But what was supposed to be a great show of national unity -- and indeed was tuned in by 89 million Americans at one time or another over the course of two hours -- was not as inclusive as it could and should have been.
It wasn't a matter of a race or gender being shortchanged. The oversight involved age. With all the talk of late about "The Greatest Generation," the stalwart Americans who got us through the Depression and World War II, it was dismaying to realize as the show progressed that there was no one on the bill who represented their music until near the end, when Celine Dion sang "God Bless America."
I don't mean to overgeneralize. There surely are Americans in their 60s and 70s who know and love some Billy Joel tunes - such as "New York State of Mind," which he sang with poignant fervor Friday night - or who think the Dixie Chicks are cute. But by and large they are not big fans of cause-rockers like U2 or Neil Young, let alone the hip-hop of Wyclef Jean or the alt-rock of Eddie Vedder or the band Limp Bizkit.
But that was pretty much all they got Friday night. Even Willie Nelson, the oldest musician participating, is identified with the generation of Rolling Stone, not the generation of Life, Look and The Saturday Evening Post. And every person over the age of 60 I spoke to over the weekend, not to mention a few other sheepish boomers, noticed there was no singer from their generation in the tribute, not even a younger performer singing something from their era.
"Where was Tony Bennett?" the father of one of my neighbors asked me.
"Couldn't they find anybody who can really sing?" said an older relative of mine. "Who were all those people, anyway?"
Good questions. Maybe it was a matter of who volunteered. Maybe it has to do with Joel Gallen, the producer who orchestrated the event, being rooted in TV specials for MTV and VH1. Calls to the event's organizers raising these questions were not returned by deadline.
As one of the seniors I talked to pointed out, purely as a practical matter, having a lopsided lineup of baby boomer rock stars probably cost the Sept. 11 Fund plenty in donations. We'll never know. We shouldn't even have to wonder.
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