If one Google’s Generation X, one of the first things that comes up is an article in the Telegraph titled ‘’Whatever Happened to Generation X?’’ Born roughly between 1961 and 1981 and sandwiched between the much larger baby boomer and millennial generations, our invisibility can be attributed to many of us possessing a generally mellow ‘’live and let live’’ attitude. But, are we in fact, truly forgotten? With yesterday’s announcement of the suicide of Chris Cornell, it occurred to me just how influential we have been and how many of the good things we created and/or embraced, have been lost over the past 18 months.
It’s been a tough time for Generation X and with Cornell’s death on top of everything else that came before it, I first felt that we are on the precipice of losing our identity. Then, I realized that this is a part of our identity. And it’s not our fault. The main event that kicked off the current run of crap was the death of Prince in 2016. from an opioid overdose. Opioid addiction is a problem that has reached epidemic proportions. It was created by the greedy pharmaceutical industry (run by baby-boomers), whose sole intent is profit, above and beyond the suffering caused by the mass distribution of their addictive products. Additionally, many turn to street drugs when their Doctors cut them off (after having received their kickbacks from the manufacturers, of course.)
When he died, we lost something big. Although Prince was not the first to break racial and gender identity image barriers, he was the first to do by crossing musical genres commercially. What other black artist in history could pull off a yellow ass-less jumpsuit and high heels and still be the most masculine guy in the room? What other musician before or since could compose, produce, mix and play all his own music? What other artist fought for artists’ rights and changed the way we think about record companies and the concept of copyright and ownership of sound? There was only Prince.
Although a boomer himself, he was embraced commercially by Gen X and I remember vividly, older people in the mid ‘80s not understanding him at that time. But, we understood him. Our open-mindedness contributed to his success. We didn’t care about his curious sexuality and accepted his positive racial message ‘’white, black, Puerto Rican. Everybody just a-freakin’.’’
This was made abundantly clear when our generation’s President, Barack Obama was elected over the boomer favourite Hillary Clinton in 2008 and under his watch, gay marriage was made legal. For a short time, it seemed as if we could let go of our disenfranchisement with society and we almost became hopeful. Almost.
Collectively, we spent the ensuing years watching the older generation try to tear down and reverse the wheels of progress that we put in motion. By the time Obama’s second term in office was over, there was a full-scale boomer revolution whose fires were fuelled by those who preferred to throw society into regression rather than continue the forward momentum we started. Shocking to anyone under the age of 60, Obama was replaced by a bullshitting trust-fund baby reality TV star con-man. Since then, we’ve seen an erosion in voting rights, healthcare policies, women’s rights and pretty much everyone who isn’t healthy, wealthy, male and white is now fucked. Once again, we were robbed of our accomplishments by a bunch of old establishment types that just never understood the things that seemed perfectly logical to us.
Then Chris Cornell died. His suicide is currently being reportedly as being connected to an adverse psychological reaction to a medication he was on. Strike two for the pharmaceutical industry.
As one of the founding members of the seminal Grunge movement that began in the early ‘90s as a reaction to the crappy state of the economy and late ‘80s hair-band rock music, Cornell’s bands Soundgarden and Audioslave contributed greatly to the revitalization of the hard rock landscape and gave us some of the best albums ever made.
Their lyrics spoke to Generation X. Then, as now, we were pissed off. Many of us raised ourselves because our parents worked constantly. Then, after seeing their successes, we were told ‘’Sorry, not for you kids!’’ and graduated into a world of boom/bust cycles created by decades of Thatcher/Regan/Bush economic policies that made the boomers rich but ensured that Gen-X would be the first generation since WWII to not do better than our parents. The songs were dark, honest and raw. No bullshitters allowed. Once again, the message was liberal. ‘’Times are gone for honest men.’’
Now, along with Scott Weiland, who died from a drug overdose and Kurt Cobain, who also committed suicide, we have lost three of the most influential members of the musical movement that defined our youth.
Unfortunately, this is our legacy, as well. Anxiety, depression, addiction and suicide are common among Gen-X but rather than admit complicity, it is frequently dismissed as being self-indulgent by the hypocritical boomers, whose social and economic policies have helped to create this shit show we now live in.
My heart goes out to Chris Cornell’s kids, who will now have it even worse than we did. Their Dad isn’t at work. Their Dad is dead. My only hope is that they, and the countless others like them will grow up to start their own musical movements, reflective of and a catalyst for the change that they too crave. They have the numbers that we didn’t and as the boomers die out, and Generation X gets older, we won’t be as resistant to change. They seem more optimistic than us but are equally as angry for the socioeconomic and political situation they have been left with. I know there are good bands out there with something to say. I just hope that there enough of us Gen-Xers left to see them when they come around on tour.