Trend Analysis Final Copy
CIS English Hour 5
Rock ‘n’ Hip, Hop ‘n‘ Roll, and the Integration of Music in Popular Culture Prelude
From bell bottoms to Barbies, every generation has its own distinct trends. While various fads have cropped up in each era, music has always been a key element of culture. Starting in the 1950’s, music became integrated within the American culture as the favored form of expression. The popular types of music found on the Top 100 lists today however, have changed dramatically since then. What has promoted this obvious change in music choice? While rock ‘n’ roll still holds its own in the music billboards of 2010, the general public now prefers the mechanical sounds of hip hop and pop. So which trends in music and in thought made the rebellious rock ‘n’ roll such a craze in the 1950’s, but not now? Each era has had specific trends, schools of thought and attitudes that have veered them into a specific genre of music. Rockin’ Out
Before 1950, the American culture held firm social expectations. Males were expected to enroll into the military or work, and women were expected to stay in the kitchen. America was pulling out of the depression, and wealth and prosperity was not considered a necessity. As the United States prevailed in World War II however, America started to change startlingly. While many people were focused on conforming with their neighbors, the social structure was revolutionized. Soldiers returned, many experiencing traumatic psychological and physical problems. Women who had integrated themselves into the work force now found themselves replaced by returning soldiers. Most importantly, families started experiencing a great deal of economic independence. This increasing affluence gave teenagers a chance to break away from their parents’ lifestyles. Teens started creating their own clothing trends, dance fads, and hairstyles (Cox). As these new fads and styles starting breaking away from social norms, rock ‘n’ roll became the sound of change. Conservative parents viewed rock ‘n’ roll, and the hip gyrations that came with it, as a gift from the devil. Despite their parents protestations however, teenagers idolized musicians like Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis.
So what made rock ‘n’ roll the epitome of 1950 culture? Four recording companies-Decca, R. C. A., Columbia and Capital-had a virtual monopoly over the popular music field in the early 1950’s. This control made rock ‘n’ roll wildly popular, simply because there was no competition (Lewis 47). As the 1950’s went on, their control weakened, yet rock ‘n’ roll still prevailed as the dominant music genre.
A contributing factor to its increasing popularity was the lack of musicians being schooled in theory, technique and composition. Rock ‘n’ roll paved a golden road for a small, charismatic group of people. They provided music rapidly to the American public, without having to compose masterpieces rivaling the music of Bach, Liszt and Debussy.
Rock ‘n’ roll also created an easy and fun way to express complex emotions through beating rhythms and twisting ostinato patterns. Simon Anderson explains, “The amplified bass seems to produce a kind of second-level rumble, a subsidiary moaning and groaning, an incantation of the adolescent subculture, where no one really knows or cares how they feel about life.”
This “incantation of the adolescent subculture” spoke to the class, gender and racial conflicts tearing through America at the time. Rock ‘n’ roll introduced the American white culture to black music. Teenagers soon became addicted to the rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll, all of which was black-inspired. The crossing of racial culture helped the disintegration of the color line. Appreciation of black music helped increase recognition of blacks in popular culture (Bertrand).
Though the rhythms and beat of rock ‘n’ roll spoke to the carefree teenager life, often the lyrics promoted...