About the Songwriter


Verse 5, continued

To most observers, the violence and indifference of the crowd at Altamont spelled the end of the sixties cultural revolution, as author Todd Gitlin, in his book The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (and himself an eyewitness to the concert), cogently describes:

…the effect was to burst the bubble of youth culture's illusions about itself. The Rolling Stones were scarcely the first countercultural heroes to grant cachet to the Hell's Angels. We had witnessed the famous collectivity of a generation cracking into thousands of shards. Center stage turned out to be another drug. The suburban fans who blithely blocked one another's views and turned their backs on the bad-trippers were no cultural revolutionaries. Who could any longer harbor the illusion that these hundreds of thousands of spoiled star-hungry children of the Lonely Crowd were the harbingers of a good society?

I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died.

•   •   •

So Mick Jagger, symbolizing the indifference and self-centeredness of the crowd, is the focal point of the evening's proceedings, and for the narrator bears responsibility for not preventing—and perhaps even provoking—what occurred there. He also epitomizes a threatening, aggresive rebellion inherent in their music, and of how far removed we were from the more benign, harmonious America of the 1950s. He is the song's Antichrist, completing the apocalyptic work of tearing down the older, peaceful world that the other musical players of the sixties had figuratively already started. And he is one more blow—the final blow—against the innocence of another era.

The verse that follows finds the narrator walking through the aftermath of the 1960s cultural revolution.