The New Normal

the axe magazine online issue 8

10 March 2021





4J'S COVID TESTS, By Soju Hokari


Homelessness During Winter • Turtles! • Sounds of the '60s

SEHS Theater • Soccer & Volleyball Schedule




Land Acknowledgement

Eugene School District 4j, South Eugene High School, and your Axe Magazine online would like to acknowledge that our institution sits on the homelands of the Kalapuya people.

In the Treaties of 1851 and 1854-1855, and the subsequent forced removals of many Indian people from western Oregon, some of the Kalapuya were moved to the Grand Ronde Reservation and some were moved to the Siletz Reservation. It is important to note that all of Lane County was an important trading and gathering area for camas and other resources.

During the Restoration Era, from 1977-1989, Lane County was designated at the Service Area for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Indians, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, the Coquille Indian Tribe, and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians.

Eugene 4J District and South wish to acknowledge that descendants of the original and Service Area inhabitants of this land are still here today. They are thriving members of our schools and our communities. Countless members of other Tribes now also call our community and schools their home.

We wish to thank those original stewards of this land. We as outsiders on this land wish to remember that we need to take good care of this land and take good care of all members of our school district and community. Thank you for joining us.

mission statement

The Axe is dedicated to the goals and ethics of journalism. As a student-run publication, our mission is to both inform the student body and spark discussion among the student body about the news within South Eugene High School and the wider community. We function under an open forum policy. We accept and may use in our publication the feedback and commentary of our readers. Email all inquiries:


Turtles Wash up in Cold Weather

By Mira Ciccarello

Image: Justin Williams,

Late last month, while extreme winter weather rage throughout the country, more than 4,000 turtles washed up on the coast of Texas. These turtles appeared lifeless, but in reality were just “cold stunned.” Turtles take on this state due to extremely low temperatures in water, which results in temporary paralysis. The turtles, unable to swim, then floated to the surface and eventually washed up on shore. Volunteers across the state rescued the turtles and brought them to one of the many care facilities set up in donated spaces, such as gymnasiums and warehouses, in coastal towns for them to warm up. Once the turtles were warmed up over the course of a weekend, volunteers were able to release thousands of turtles back into the Gulf of Mexico.


thank you for reading the axe magazine online!

(From left) Employees Patrick McMurdo and Alex Leve work in the foreground as another employee administers a COVID-19 test through a car window. Tests are given on a drop-in basis and are free for all 4J community members. Photo by Soju Hokari.

4J and UO offer free COVID-19 tests

The tests, available to all community members, are administered every other Saturday

By Soju Hokari

District 4J, in partnership with the University of Oregon, is offering free COVID-19 tests to community members at their downtown campus. The tests are administered every other Saturday and are offered both drop-in and by appointment to anyone who wants one, regardless of symptoms.

Employee and South alum Alex Leve says that the testing site has been busy.

We've had a steady flow since we started at 9 a.m.," Leve said. "We've had some long lines."

But the number of people looking to be tested was not a challenge. All community members who showed up were able to get through the process.

"There is no shortage of tests," employee Patrick McMurdo said.

According to Leve, the test is "very easy."

“People are given a Q-tip-looking swab, and they put it in their nose about half an inch,” Leve said. "It's a self administered test, so community members do it themselves.”

The testing site tests mostly asymptomatic people, but employees are prepared to test those with symptoms as well.

"We have people with full PPE," Leve said, gesturing at a group of employees in bright neon uniforms complete with face shields and N-95 masks.

The testing program is focused on helping vulnerable communities.

"We are testing primarily the Latinx community," employee Alex Leve said. According to data from the Oregon Health Authority, Hispanic people have been almost four times more likely to contract the virus than their non-Hispanic counterparts.

And while focused on those communities, Leve stressed that all interested 4J community members are welcome to show up for a test, and encouraged those who know about it to spread the word.

"Tell people to get tested," Leve said

Tests are administered every other Saturday from 9 AM to 12 PM at the 4J Education Center, 200 N. Monroe St. Results are returned electronically or via mail 2-4 days after tests are administered. The next test date is Saturday March 13. More information can be found on the 4J website.

south theater: and the winners are...

From South's new theater teacher John Monteverde, who is competently and confidently carrying on that South Axe-ellence with students in his very surreal first year at South...

Earlier this month, South Eugene Theater participated in our annual (virtual!) theater competition, The International Thespian Society’s Regionals event. Competing against hundreds of high school students from across the region, students from South submitted videos of their performances to be adjudicated by a panel of expert judges. Along with valuable practice, students receive judges feedback of their work and the opportunity to compete against each other to qualify for State.

This year, South came away with seven awards (tying with our friendly on-going "rivals" at Redmond Proficiency Academy) – the most of any two schools in our region! Four of South's actors received top honors and two qualified for State. These are unusual times, and I want to give a special shout out to all the students who participated. Participation showed a strong level of commitment and personal fortitude this year, especially when the social aspects of participation in regionals were necessarily lacking. I'm very proud of all of our kids.

Here are the results:

Regional Finalists

Solo Acting Experienced: Audrey McCarthy

Solo Musical Novice: Quinnlyn Turnbull

State Qualifiers

Solo Acting Experienced: Madigan Rear

Solo Acting Experienced: Adriana Ripley

Solo Musical Experienced: Madigan Rear

Solo Musical Experienced: Adriana Ripley

Duo Musical: Madigan Rear & Adriana Ripley

It's Party Time – 'A killer party' time

A Killer Party, Digital Mystery Musical, premieres at South Eugene

The Suspects are Assembled! Let the Party Begin!

From the South Theater Department

In spite of the current pandemic, South Eugene High School continues to find creative ways to entertain their audiences. Their latest offering, A KILLER PARTY, is a fully digital, remotely performed murder mystery musical unlike anything the group has ever offered before! Originating in the spring of 2019 as a nine-episode web series by a group of renowned (and quarantined) Broadway veterans, the show received rave reviews from New York critics, and garnered a huge cult following online. SET’s production marks its non-professional debut!

Directed by South Eugene’s new theater instructor John Monteverde, with musical direction and sound editing by choir director Chris Dobson, A KILLER PARTY is a whole new type of musical. The show features the work of over two dozen young people working together to shoot scenes remotely from their homes, functioning as actors, camera operators, sound and lighting technicians, costumers and set dressers. The plot involves an amateur mid-western theater troupe that comes together for a costume dinner party and to read the latest creation of the company’s director, an audience participation murder mystery. Somebody takes the “participation” aspect a little too seriously when a real murder occurs - and suddenly everyone’s a suspect!

A KILLER PARTY stars Reece Miller-Reynolds as Varthur McArthur, the sinister host of the titular party and the theater’s Artistic Director, with Anya Martin as the plucky meter-maid turned detective who must solve the case. The party’s guest list includes several actors, including Madigan Rear as the temperamental leading lady, Oshen Parris-Austin as the arrogant leading man, Flora Brown as an upstart ingenue, and Brennan Connelly as a bitter perpetual chorus boy. Also on hand are the company’s eccentric designer played by Adriana Ripley, Henry Davis-Piger as the downtrodden stage manager, and Maren Nixon as Varthur’s theatre-loathing wife! Jordan Liddy narrates as the senior, retired Detective Case, now a mystery writer, with Jesse Brown, Meesha Gerharter and Aziza Starr Lily rounding out the cast. The show is carefully edited by five highly skilled young technicians: Timothy Yin, Isaac Lonergan, Connor Moyce, Maciej Bownik, Jamieson Rear and Pablo Saez.

“With broad winks to Agatha Christie and the limitations of remote theatre, A Killer Party is a cheerful lark featuring jaunty tunes!” – Jesse Green, The New York Times

  • WHO: South Eugene Theater

  • WHAT: A KILLER PARTY, A Murder Mystery Musical

  • WHEN: Friday and Saturday, March 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, & 20 @ 7:00, Sunday, March 7, 14, & 21 @ 2:00

  • WHERE: Tickets available through ShowTix4U at

  • HOW MUCH: Tickets are $15 for the General Public, $10 for students & seniors


Upcoming Games

Fall sports are finally upon us in the form of an abbreviated four-week season.

Home games are livestreamed for free by 4J on BoxCast.

Away games are livestreamed on the host team's website or on Facebook Live. A list of streaming options can be found at

March 10

  • 3:45 PM Boys JV Soccer vs North Eugene (Home)

  • 4:00 PM Girls JV Soccer vs Creswell (Away)

  • 6:00 PM Boys Varsity Soccer vs North Eugene (Home)

  • 6:00 PM Girls Varsity Soccer vs North Eugene (Away)

March 11

  • 3:45 PM Boys Varsity Football vs Oakridge (Home)

March 12

  • 3:45 PM Boys Freshmen/JV Soccer vs Springfield (Home)

  • 4:30 PM Girls JV Volleyball vs Sheldon (Away)

  • 4:30 PM Girls Freshmen/JV Volleyball vs Sheldon (Away)

  • 6:00 PM Girls Varsity Volleyball vs Sheldon (Away)

March 13

  • TBA Varsity Cross Country

March 15

  • 3:45 PM Girls JV Soccer vs Churchill (Away)

  • 3:45 PM Boys Freshmen/JV Soccer vs Willamette (Home)

  • 6:00 PM Boys Varsity Soccer vs Churchill (Home)

  • 6:00 PM Girls Varsity Soccer vs Churchill (Away)

March 16

  • 4:30 PM Girls JV Volleyball vs Springfield (Home)

  • 4:30 PM Girls Freshmen/JV Volleyball vs Springfield (Home)

  • 6:00 PM Girls Varsity Volleyball vs Springfield (Home)


Illustration by Helen Evans

A Physician’s Take on COVID-19

A conversation with a Doctor, recapping the Coronavirus experience.

By Helen Evans

Two weeks ago I got the pleasure of sitting down to speak with Dr. Brenda Ormesher, an infectious disease specialist who works for PeaceHealth Medical Group and was involved in the COVID-19 response at the hospital. A brilliant physician with a quick wit and a love for adventure, Dr. Ormesher grew up on the East Coast before moving to the Pacific Northwest in the early 2000s to pursue her career and to enjoy all of the outdoor activities the region has to offer. She takes great pride in her work at the hospital and was excited to share her pandemic experiences.

“I remember first thinking about [COVID-19] back in early January of 2020,” Dr. Ormesher reflected.

As Dr. Ormesher and her colleagues watched the cases steadily rise in China; she noted that, for the infectious disease community, it had brought back memories of their past SARS experiences.

“Initially it was difficult to tell if it was going to be able to be localized or not but we were very hopeful,” Dr. Ormesher said. “However, once we started seeing cases everywhere else, and how it had spread out in the local community, we knew that we had just started seeing the tip of the iceberg. By mid-January, we already knew that we were going to be a little bit too late, and then it became an issue of not really knowing what we were fighting.”

Despite a lack of important knowledge about this new and mysterious virus, Lane County and Oregon in general did an excellent job of handling the response, according to Dr. Ormesher. Oregon currently has the fourth lowest case number per capita in the U.S, and is in the top 20 for lowest case numbers overall.

“[Compared to other communities] we were more aggressive in our abilities to minimize the virus, and then minimize the damage,” Dr. Ormesher said. “[Response] meant rapid shutdown of certain businesses and services which really was necessary because we needed the time to get the healthcare system personal protective equipment, lab testing, and an ability to track people and [trace the spread].”

According to a panel of doctors assembled to create a cohesive hospital response, Peace Health was gearing up for a superstorm of epic proportions when COVID was just beginning to spread throughout Washington last year. Protocols were being created, ventilators were being counted, and DEFCON 1-3 were in place. To the community's relief, due to a quick shutdown, the hospitals in Eugene never felt the impending surge. When cases did start trickling in, doctors were prepared and equipped with the necessary tools to treat COVID-19 positive patients.

“I have colleagues that work in other places nationally, and it was interesting hearing their experiences and how overwhelmed they were,” Dr. Ormesher said. “It kind of puts you in a different mindset because we were definitely hit much later [with significantly lower numbers].”

“In infectious disease, I personally feel very safe in my field. Normally, I already know my patients I’m seeing have COVID. So, I know I need to wear protective equipment, and I know that I need to be careful with washing my hands. There is definitely some ability to know what I'm walking into.”

According to Dr. Ormesher, frontline caregivers including emergency room physicians and trauma specialists, have a higher risk of exposure because they have no immediate way of knowing if their patient has COVID-19.

I caught Dr. Oremesher while she was at her daughter's soccer practice, a perfect opportunity for exercise and social interaction – both in high demand at the moment as all students await hybrid school opening in the spring.

Dr. Ormesher is cautiously optimistic that the reopening of schools will not affect the case rates as much as some may fear.

“You will have to be vigilant in making sure that you're masked-up while in the school,” Dr. Ormesher said. “Don't be going to school feeling sick, and make sure to be washing your hands. If you're sensibly distant, and people are actually following the guidelines, the risk of transmission becomes much lower in school settings.”

In recent CDC studies, teachers have been shown to play a large role in transmitting the virus as they spend more time in the classroom and may take breaks with their masks off. Dr. Ormesher hopes that with more teachers and administrators receiving the vaccine, herd immunity will decrease these transmission rates as well.

With audible enthusiasm, Dr. Ormesher touched on the nature of the COVID-19 vaccine, as its uncommon mRNA based nature leads to questions on its effectiveness and its safety for younger demographics.

“Normally, we use a little piece of a protein from the virus or a little bit of sugar from a bacteria that causes your body to react. The COVID-19 vaccine actually takes a little bit of a messenger RNA from the virus and it gives it to your body, and the body then recognizes it as a piece of RNA to attack.” Dr. Ormesher explained.

While the vaccine decreases one’s likelihood of contracting COVID, it is not yet well understood how effective it is at blocking transmission.

Dr. Ormesher explained that this simply hasn’t been studied. The abnormally fast paced development of these vaccines allowed scientists to really only focus on symptomatic transmission, which is an easier variable to trace. She does add that new Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which is currently working through the approval process, did study asymptomatic transmission, an option that wasn’t available to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

However despite the levels of uncertainty Dr. Ormesher is confident in the vaccine's relative safety for young adults and upon asking Dr. Ormesher If I, a 16-year-old, should get the vaccine when the opportunity arises, she did not hesitate to say yes.

With the conversation drawing to an end, she concluded with a touching and honest thank you to the readers of the article, recognizing that high schoolers have lost memories and experiences that can’t be replaced, but also offering assurance that the efforts of each individual have made huge impacts on the health and safety of the community.

“Your sacrifices have been appreciated and acknowledged,” Dr. Ormesher said. “There's nothing I can say that will thank you enough for all the hard sacrifices you made.”

Creative Solutions to a Housing Crisis

Unhoused people’s lives are thrown into uncertainty and chance this time of year. Here is how some organizations in Eugene and Portland are trying to help.

By Naomi Saenger and Mira Ciccarello

On Jan. 24, Ivory Irene McCuen died from hypothermia while living on the streets of Eugene. She was only 30 years old and had been homeless for two years.

McCuen’s death is a grim reminder of the urgent issue of homelessness in Eugene and surrounding areas. When winter comes every year, that crisis is often highlighted by tragedy. Many organizations in Eugene and Portland have stepped up to prevent death and other weather-related health problems. Listed below are organizations who are providing housing and other support in many different ways.

In 2019, a massive snowstorm hit Eugene, causing organizations like Egan Warming Center to open.

Egan Warming Center

This Eugene-founded organization’s sole mission is to provide emergency shelter for the Lane County homeless population. When the temperature in Eugene drops to below 30 degrees, the Egan Warming Center will call on their trusted volunteers and open up multiple locations to provide temporary shelter from the cold. The Egan Warming Center is a program of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Eugene. An online review of the organization says it best:

“It was very respectful, calm, warm, and [there was] lots of food. I felt so safe,” wrote a happy shelter user, Jenny Triplett.

Multnomah County Warming Shelters

The City of Portland/Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services is offering warming shelters around the city for anyone in need. Some locations that have been open in years past were unable to open this year due to COVID-19, however there are many still open including:

  • Arbor Lodge Severe Weather Shelter

  • Metro Garage

  • Oregon Convention Center

  • Sunrise Center in east County

These centers offer overnight stays and a chance to stop by to get warm and pick up any needed supplies. These shelters provide life-saving gear for anyone, such as tents, medical aid kits, food, warm clothes and blankets. Most larger shelters will be offering COVID testing, as well, and all participants must get a symptom check.

A Home For Everyone

A Home for Everyone is an organization working toward the prevention of homelessness in Multnomah County, rather than offering emergency services. They collect data and address the root problems behind homelessness. However, in 2016 they also created a joint task force with Multnomah County with the goal of making homelessness services more accessible and known. This joint task force provides emergency housing, medical aide and many resources and programs to help people find jobs and long term housing.

Homelessness is a complex issue that is very real in Eugene and many surrounding areas. However, the larger problem is the lack of communication regarding organizations that offer help. These listed organizations have attempted to tackle the homelessness crisis from many different angles, all providing resources and temporary protection. In these harsh winters it is even more important to have accessible resources and support.

sports commentary

The swish of a basketball going through a net has been steady in uncertain times. Photo by Ivan Freck.

NBA Storylines at Midseason

Basketball has reached a natural place to pause and reflect on what has been an especially wacky year.

By Ivan Freck

The NBA is just about to take a five-day pause for the All-Star Break, a perfect opportunity to reflect on the winding road that has been traveled and travailed across to get to the midpoint of the season. This is a season that will go down in the annals of NBA history as one of the most unique seasons ever, so it is not a shock that some of the play has not aligned with expectations heading in. Here are a few of the storylines that have popped up over the first half of play.

The Coronavirus continues to have a hold over the basketball world.

Who could have foreseen this? The dominant force over everything in the past year looms above the world of sports, as well. In an effort to finish up the 2019-20 season with a legitimate champion, the NBA chose to create an isolated controlled environment (frequently referred to as a bubble) for a few months in Orlando to stage a postseason in conditions that allowed for the lowest risk of infection possible.

For the 2020-21 season, the NBA… has not done that. Games are played in normal arenas, with about a third of those arenas allowing limited fan attendance. Testing is performed daily on all players and key staff members. The result has been almost 30 games being postponed due to a mix of positive tests and fallout from contact tracing. The league’s virus protocols attempt to balance virus risk with avoiding comprehensive restrictions of the lives of the players outside of the games, which creates a narrow path to follow between safety and livelihood. It’s a bit of an odd tone shift from last summer, which had been praised as the hallmark of successfully operating sports during a pandemic. There have not been any plans to postpone the season, but the inconsistency of availability for some players has led to results that haven’t always lined up with preseason conjecture.

In some ways, the top of the standings look different than expected.

One of the biggest on-court twists this year has been the rise to prominence of the Utah Jazz. After several years of being a consistent, middle of the pack playoff team that never seriously posed a challenge to the top title contenders, the Jazz have turned themselves into the best team of the first half of the regular season. The Jazz sit in the top three of both offensive and defensive efficiency, and have by far the best scoring differential of any team thus far. Their offense, led by scoring and playmaking from guards Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, has the largest percentage of points coming from three-pointers in the league. Defensively, they have locked down the three-point line, and are using two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to protect the rim.

In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers have been able to coalesce a more coherent roster than last season’s first-round flameout around MVP candidate Joel Embiid. Embiid has posted the best numbers of his career offensively and has anchored a sound defense, which has all-NBA point forward Ben Simmons and an improved supporting cast to do wonders in transforming the 76ers into a real threat in the Eastern Conference.

Finally, the long maligned Phoenix Suns are in a good position to end their decade-long playoff drought and even finish in the top half of the playoffs as a trade to bring in veteran point guard Chris Paul has brought consistency to their young roster built around scoring guard Devin Booker. They currently sit second in the West behind Utah.

Some teams are struggling more than last year’s success seemed to indicate.

Many of the breakout teams from just a few months ago have not been able replicate the same level of play for a variety of reasons. The Miami Heat, fresh off a surprise run to the NBA Finals, have been forced to tinker with a whopping 16 different starting lineups so far this season due to injuries and underachieving play. The Heat, and perennial conference title challengers Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors, sit in a gaggle of Eastern Conference teams hovering around a .500 winning percentage.

In the West, the Denver Nuggets, who scraped through two rounds last season to reach the Conference Finals, have had a bit of an uninspiring record despite a solid point differential, indicating that their record does not align with the level of play they have reached with All Star center Nikola Jokic putting up the best numbers of his career.

It’s not too late for these teams to go on a winning streak to solidify their playoff positions, but the fact that so many of last year’s best have been shakier is enough to warrant monitoring.

Chaos awaits an expanded playoff format.

This year, the play-in game from last season’s bubble will be expanded into a play-in tournament and include teams in ninth and 10th place. The seventh- and eighth-place teams will face off in one game to determine the seventh seed in the postseason, while the ninth- and tenth-place teams will play for the right to battle the loser of the aforementioned game for the final berth.

While the format may be a bit cumbersome at surface level, it will offer an opportunity for many of the teams that are used to being cellar dwellers to escape purgatory and snag a playoff spot. The large cluster of mediocre teams in the East (the fourth-place Boston Celtics are just three games ahead of the eleventh place Atlanta Hawks) should make for an exciting race with so many teams making their first moves towards relevance in several years.

Out in the West, the top 10 holds a small, but comfortable lead over the bottom five, where frisky teams like the New Orleans Pelicans or Sacramento Kings could be in position to snap up a spot in the tournament if any of the teams ahead of them falter.

What will the top teams do?

While the fight for the postseason may be more colorful, determining the pecking order of the established championship contenders will define this season. The defending champions Los Angeles Lakers have been relatively under the radar, especially as they close the first half with a whimper as they lack the services of superstar big man Anthony Davis due to a calf strain. However, they still don’t have many reasons to panic (yet) about their chances to retain their crown, even if they drop a few games in the regular season. Their crosstown (these are some serious air quotes) “rivals,” the Los Angeles Clippers, have had a similarly unremarkable start, but they lack the benefit of the doubt that is afforded by the Lakers’ championship pedigree. Thus, they will have to prove that they are more than an on-paper contender in the postseason after failing to dissuade that notion during a second round meltdown against the Nuggets last year.

The Bucks have not held the same regular season dominance that they have held for the past two seasons, but perhaps this will be the year they can exceed their regular season excellence and make it to the Finals after a splashy offseason in which they acquired steady guard Jrue Holiday in a blockbuster trade to pair with two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. One of the handful of serious foes they may have to vanquish are the Brooklyn Nets, who have transformed from cute overachievers into the newest superteam on the block as they get Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving back from injury and throw in James Harden for good measure. While their defense has been abhorrent (26th in defensive efficiency), the Nets are on pace to have the first trio in NBA history all average more than 25 points per game, so it might just not matter.

These four superpowers, plus the three surprise teams, are all itching for the Conference Finals and beyond, but not all of them will reach that level. How the second half of the season unfolds will tell a lot about who gets there and how.

Music Through The Decades: The 1960s

Critic Natasha Dracobly walks us through the music that

defined us half a century ago.

By Natasha Dracobly

With the rise of pop bands such as The Beatles, the folk revival, and the birth of countless new ways of playing, writing, and recording songs, the ‘60s were a decade of change. These tracks from throughout the ‘60s are a diverse mix of iconic hits, personal favorites, and things my parents insisted were important. As a devoted Bob Dylan fan with almost no interest in, say, Elvis (as opposed to my dad, who has dressed up as Elvis on multiple occasions), some of these songs are definitely closer to my heart than others, but together they represent a sample of the many musical styles heard throughout the decade.

1960: “(What A) Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke

While “Wonderful World” was written more than 60 years ago, the song’s simplistic lyrics about love and school, beginning with the line, “Don’t know much about history, don’t know much biology,” might resonate with high school students of today just as much as they did then.

1961: “Runaway” by Del Shannon

This catchy song might sound average to our ears, but in 1961, the instrumental sound was unique. Del Shannon’s keyboardist Max Crook, who wrote the song, used a heavily modified early electric keyboard to produce the bridge solo.

1962: “Return to Sender” by Elvis Presley

Written by duo Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott for the Elvis movie Girls! Girls! Girls!, “Return To Sender” was meant to be a poppy return to the rock and roll genre following the commercial disappointment of Elvis’ pop ballad “She’s Not You.”

1963: “900 Miles” by Odetta

No discussion of the music of the ‘60s would be complete without mentioning the folk revival (though that may be my bias speaking). While this movement is probably best remembered for Bob Dylan’s songwriting, Odetta’s contributions cannot be underestimated; an important figure in American folk music since the ’50s, she was a major influence on practically every folk singer/songwriter of the revival. I have a fondness for albums of traditional folk songs, and Odetta Sings Folk Songs is among the best of them. Though this isn’t an original song or one of her best-known covers, it’s an incredible example of the folk genre, and of Odetta’s amazing skill at interpreting old folk songs. If you ever have time, I recommend looking up some other versions of this song to see how each artist makes it their own. Terry Callier has a good one.

1964: “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles

The Beatles’ first American number-one hit, the song marked the beginning of true “Beatlemania.” In the year following its release, they would set the all-time record of 7 number-one songs in a one-year period.

1965: “Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan

While I couldn’t say if this song is my favorite song of 1965, or even my favorite Bob Dylan song of 1965, it surely is the most iconic one. What other song, after all, could lead a songwriter’s most fervent fans to yell that he’s “Judas!” the most famous biblical betrayer and someone Dylan had, at this point, referenced several times in his songs?

Dylan is, without a doubt, one of the most important artists of the 1960s and beyond, and there’s a strong argument for 1965 being the most important year of his career. Having spent the majority of the early ‘60s writing and playing protest songs, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar and harmonica, in ‘65 Dylan “went electric,” using for the first time, to the horror of his fans, an electric guitar and full back-up band. Many of Dylan’s greatest songs came out of the two albums he released that year, and perhaps none is more iconic or emblematic of the time as “Like A Rolling Stone.” Peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard chart, “Like A Rolling Stone” opened Highway 61 Revisited with a snare that resembled a gunshot. The electric sound of the song, accompanied by Dylan’s wailing voice, completed Dylan’s separation from his folk fanbase, and he would go on to be booed by his audience at practically every show he played in the next year.

1966: “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys

At the time of its release, “Good Vibrations,” was the costliest single ever recorded. The song is often credited as revolutionary to the pop and rock genres for its fragmented style and complex soundscapes. Listening to the track now, it’s hard to believe it was released almost 50 years ago. The distinctly electronic pop sound and smooth, complex instrumentation still feel modern. The song’s lyrics are perhaps what truly dates it, together with the harmonious, experimental backing track that made the song an anthem for the ‘60s counterculture.

1967: “Respect” by Aretha Franklin

The original version of this song, recorded by Otis Redding in 1965, was already a hit when Franklin recorded “Respect,” but the lasting power of the song has to be credited to Franklin. It was her arrangement and lyrical changes that transformed the song into a feminist anthem with a wholly different meaning from the original.

1968: “All Along The Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix

While 1967 might have been Jimi Hendrix’s breakout year (during which he released his first two albums and quickly established himself as one of the greatest musicians of the time), this Bob Dylan cover from 1968 remains one of his best known songs, and for good reason. I know and love the original Dylan version of this song, but Hendrix’s cover is undoubtedly greater; his arrangement choices, such as punctuating lyrics with singing-yelling and psychedelic guitar solos, elevate the lyrics and storytelling in a way few Dylan covers have managed, or even attempted, to do. In the words of critic Dave Marsh, “Jimi accomplishes the unique feat of making you forget all about Dylan’s original version.”

1969: “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones

No song defines the late 1960s like “Gimme Shelter”, or so my dad claims. The opening track of the album Let It Bleed, the song establishes the album’s bleak worldview, one inspired by the tensions and violence of the Vietnam War and the social unrest that had come with it. The moody sound of the song and screaming vocals contributed by guest singer Merry Clayton created an unmatched aura of apocalyptic fear and frustration as the world hurtled into the ‘70s.

This is the first in a series of articles about music of the last 60 years, one decade at a time.

Watch for OUR SPRING BREAK ISSUE! Out next week!


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