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Rolling Stone Retrospective

November 01, 1987

Looking back, Walter Cronkite wishes that he had gone to Woodstock, saying, "I really missed a story there." If the war in Vietnam was happening now, Jane Fonda would not go to Hanoi. Bob Dylan went into a record store and did not know what to buy, lamenting that "there's so many records out there"--and not necessarily good ones. Speaking with surprising admiration, Ted Kennedy says that Ronald Reagan has restored the institution of the Presidency in a very important way.

These are not necessarily the things that one expects to read in a counterculture magazine, but then, after 20 years, Rolling Stone no longer is counterculture. The snippets are from 35 interviews that Rolling Stone conducted with people who figured prominently on the pages of the journal of modern music and politics since the first issue came out in 1967. In those interviews the figures reflect on the turbulent events and movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and their effects on life today.

The political and cultural figures primarily are liberals, since those have been the magazine's audience. Many of them acknowledge a retrenchment of their idealism after discovering with age and experience that the world cannot be remade overnight. Many express concern that modern youths share no unifying causes and are not particularly aware of the world around them. Some sample comments:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass): "I suppose I've become more tolerant, more patient, more understanding--hopefully not losing sight of ideals, but a little more pragmatic. I think generally I am now more effective."

Singer Joan Baez: "There are many people with causes today. There is movement everywhere. There is not, in my opinion, a big movement. And that's the missing link because that's the glue, that's the consistency, that's the feeling that we're going somewhere . . . . We're working in isolation because we're working uphill in an avalanche."

Writer Tom Wolfe: "We don't understand the human animal any better from living in the last part of the 20th Century. I am convinced that human understanding of the human condition never improves, and it doesn't matter how many schools of psychology and anthropology and sociology are created."

Former CBS correspondent Walter Cronkite: "I would think that the most important event of our 20 years has got to be the walk on the moon. In future history books, this will be comparable to Columbus' discovery of America."

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