Looking back from 2018, it’s hard to explain to people who weren’t around from 1969 through ’72 how amazing it was to first encounter the generation of singer-songwriters who emerged from the psychedelic haze of the late 1960s: All at once we had James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Neil Young, and so many others—each completely distinctive and incisive and fresh, and often wielding acoustic guitars. We happily allowed them to burrow into our brains and teach us about life and love and loss. If you played guitar in those days, you probably played some of their songs. Maybe you still do. Back then you couldn’t go to an open-mic night at a coffee house without hearing tunes by those folks.
Of the literally thousands of concerts I’ve been to since my first one in the winter of 1969 (The Doors and the Staple Singers at Madison Square Garden), one that’s still etched clearly in my mind is a mostly acoustic show I went to at Gaelic Park in the Bronx on July 7, 1971, co-headlined by Carly Simon and Cat Stevens. As I wasn’t a huge fan of either of those artists—I liked ’em fine; they were inescapable on the radio—I suspect I probably went with my girlfriend; date night! Anyway, it was a gorgeous night, perfect temperature, people spread out on blankets under the starry sky, couples cuddled, and Carly Simon and Cat Stevens turned out to be completely mesmerizing performers who seemed to connect with every person there, me included. That concert made me a big fan of both, and I’ve never forgotten the feeling of that evening! (And I remember later trying to play Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” on the Gibson acoustic I’d acquired from a friend.)