June 4th, 2013
Peace, Love, and Rock n’ Roll
Music is the backbone to every culture and society; when the culture begins to evolve so does the music. Throughout history we have constantly seen that music reflects the common beliefs and ideals of the people of that era. The most prominent example of this is Rock and Roll, which was a product of The Vietnam War in the 1960s. The music rebelled against the conformist sound of the 50s and evolved into the emotional, provocative, relatable sound of a new culture. America was flipped upside down and so was the music. Since the war had begun, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated, the draft had taken thousands of young men away from their family and friends, the LA race riots had occurred, numerous Anti-war and draft protests killed innocent civilians around the nation, and on top of it all the gruesome war was televised for every American to watch. From the time it was introduced into common American culture until the mid 1970s rock music was continuously changing, reinventing its purpose and sound. As the culture and attitude of Americans became enveloped by the darkness of the war, so did the music. The war had affected everybody’s life in one way or another and music was drastically affected as well. A significant number of artists who became famous had the same motives and anti-war attitude. This common theme marked the beginning of the new rock era. Not only did music serve as a direct means of anti-war protest but also the ideology of peace and love appealed to the youth and enveloped the culture of the 70s. Without the Vietnam War Rock music would not have taken the route it did away from the conformist sound of the 50s. The emotional evolution that rock went through during the Vietnam era created what rock and roll was and what it later became. The 1950s are commonly known as an era of conformity and complacency in America. World War II had just ended and the nation as a whole was tired, trying to return to normal. It was a time where far out ideas were seen as radical and people were severely punished because of the national fear of communism. Because of this, everybody kept quiet and lived their “happy” American life styles in their quaint American suburbs with their “perfect” American families. The music of this post WWII era reflected this conformist lifestyle. Primarily the genres that dominated the 1950s were Classic Pop, R&B, and Rock and Roll/Rockabilly. Classic Pop generally was more popular in the early 50s, mostly consisting of big band and swing music that emphasized orchestration and a gentle and upbeat tone. Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald are artists that fell into this category. By the mid 50s R&B became popular with the tracks “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard. This new fun, funky, and frisky sound was a path many artists were beginning to follow at this time. By the end of the decade, Rock and Roll and Rockabilly had surfaced. Rockabilly was a term consisting of the “rock” from “rock and roll” and “hillbilly” referring to country music. It was a sound that was an infusion of country and bluegrass with R&B. The king himself, Elvis Presley embodies this genre best. The sound of these genres was new and impressive at the time but, in hindsight, had been emotionless and hardly significant in comparison to the proceeding decade. The cultural and musical change of rock and roll began with the counterculture and the youth of the 1960s. According to F.X Shea author of “Reason and the Religion of the Counter-Culture”, the birth and death of the counterculture of the 60s and 70s in the United States parallels the dates of America’s involvement of the Vietnam War, beginning around 1964 and ending in 1975. This is no coincidence; the counterculture was made up of the youth of this era. Students and young adults that were against all of society’s...
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