THE WHO’S GENERATION
How did the Who represent “My Generation” in mid-1960s England?
One of the most important bands of the British Invasion, the Who had a remarkable voice for expressing generational rage and an explosive performance style to match it. While neither the Beatles nor the Rolling Stones appeared at either of the most iconic 1960s music festivals—Monterey Pop in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969—the Who delivered signature performances at both. Through their songs, which expressed the visceral frustrations of adolescence and young adulthood, and their concerts, which set standards for a new kind of showmanship, the Who established a reputation as one of the toughest, most articulate, most influential bands in Rock and Roll.
This lesson centers on the Who’s 1965 song “My Generation.” The band’s second hit single (after “I Can’t Explain”), it has become perhaps its best-known record, an anthem for the youth of the 1960s that still resonates today. “My Generation” captures the spirit of the Who as well as, if not better than, anything the group recorded over its long career: confrontational lyrics that are simultaneously full of angst and defiance, stuttering vocals that evoke frustration and confusion, and a performance that at times feels on the edge of collapse.
In this lesson, students will evaluate live performances of “My Generation,” focusing on the one from the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, and analyze the lyrics and sonic character of the song. Finally, they will examine their own generational identity, and, following the Who’s lead, compose new lyrics for a new generation.
Upon completion of this lesson, students will
Have the class compare and contrast the Who’s lyrics with the students’ lyrics. Discuss:
Assign one or more of the following:
How did the Who’s “My Generation” give voice to the attitudes and concerns of young people in the mid-1960s?
College and Career Readiness Reading Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 for Literature and Informational Text
College and Career Readiness Writing Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 in English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening for Grades 6-12
Core Music Standard: Responding
Select: Choose music appropriate for a specific purpose or context.
Analyze: Analyze how the structure and context of varied musical works inform the response.
Interpret: Support interpretations of musical works that reflect creators' and/or performers' expressive intent.
Evaluate: Support evaluations of musical works and performances based on analysis, interpretation, and established criteria.
Core Music Standard: Connecting
Connecting 11: Relate musical ideas and works to varied contexts and daily life to deepen understanding.