The Sixties shook America to its foundation – the assassination of an idealistic young president, a tragic and unpopular war, a battle for civil rights, a cosmic clash of riots and burning cities, and an explosion of sex, drugs and rock’n roll.
For four young people, the Sixties is a decade of promise and freedom. For orphaned Troy, it’s the joy of living with his new family and exploring the world of flight and outer space. For Tara, the girl he loves, the power of song as she evolves into a rock’n roll star. For his new brother, Mick, a football hero and rebel, a time to question everything, including the fast-growing war in Vietnam. And for Daisy, the girl Mick loves, a chance to fight for equality, join the Peace Corps, and expand her study of the human mind.
America is the first of Mike Bond’s seven-volume historical novel series, capturing the victories and heartbreaks of the last 70 years and of our nation’s most profound upheavals since the Civil War – a time that defined the end of the 20th Century and where we are today.
Through the wild, joyous, heartbroken and visionary lives of four young people and many others, the Sixties come alive again, as do its questions: what is life? What is freedom? What was lost, what was won?
AMERICA BY MIKE BOND EXCERPT
THE LIVING DEAD
TARA DIDN’T GO HOME to Nyack in June after her freshman year, instead took her two suitcases of books and clothes and her battered guitar and moved in with Blade in his Oakland pad, and two weeks later went with him on his next tour, bar gigs first in Oakland then Fillmore Street in San Francisco, then San Jose and all over the Bay Area, belting out the blues to mostly black audiences who were hostile at first but soon cheered her wildly, assaulting her with hugs and free beer. “You the one!” a big man squeezed her to his sweaty belly. “You sing like an angel, girl. A white angel.”
“You got Odetta down, Baby,” Blade said.
“I’m not Odetta. I’m me.”
It was entrancing to be alive, deep in the joy of song and freedom. Music sweet music for hours, from morning through day and night into morning again. When they didn’t tour they practiced in the chilly back room of a south Oakland warehouse. When she thought about university it was like a boring dream. Blade on the piano and vocals, his deep voice like an oak tree in the middle of the song, Sybil the drummer so understated, so clean, Tiny the huge bass player, so black his skin shone like ebony in the sweat of concerts, and Luis, Luis the fiery guitarist, doctor and priest of the sweetest most beautiful soul-moving solos, his blue Telecaster reaching for the infinite of perfect truth and beauty, touching it and falling again – it was the greatest human achievement: going beyond. Touching God.
Once in a flash she understood music for the first time, discovered what she’d been living. That music is talking to God. Sometimes even touching God, when the artist reaches perfection.
“This, what we’re having now, like it’s the most amazing musical renaissance since the eighteenth century,” Luis said. “A return to Mozart, like for instance. And we are right in the middle of it!”
Even mainline music was moving. The stuff white kids listened to. Sure there were tons of adenoidal love songs, You’re the Reason I’m Living – how silly could that be, to base your existence on another person – Can’t Get Used to Losing You, or the misnamed End of the World – can a guy actually imagine his world ending just because some teenage girl tells him goodbye?
Did all love music have to be saccharine? Not in the blues. Not Johnny Cash,
Bound by wild desire
I fell into a ring of fire…
Then there were the meaningless songs, Puff the Magic Dragon, that the Pentagon had used to name a C-130 gunship that could riddle a football-field sized piece of Vietnam with 50 Caliber bullets, or Da Doo Ron Ron, Everybody’s gone surfin’, Surfin’ U.S.A.
Most people didn’t surf. They fought every day just to be alive. Where was that music? There was this raunchy skinny kid with a voice like a coffee grinder and a beat-up guitar. Peter Paul and Mary sang one of his songs,
How many years must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Out of the syrupy morass of commercial music, where did this come from? It went on…
Yes and how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Enough to blow your fuckin mind. Maybe there was some hope, after all.
Copyright © 2021 by Mike Bond
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bestselling novelist MIKE BOND has worked in many dangerous and war-torn regions of the world. His critically acclaimed novels portray the innate hunger of the human heart for good, the intense joys of love, the terror and fury of battle, the sinister conspiracies of dictators, corporations and politicians, and the beauty of the vanishing natural world.
PHOTO CONTENT FROM MIKE BOND
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ENDS: MAY 24, 2021