James Brown and the American Dream of the ‘60s
The American Dream is defined in the Random House dictionary as “the ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity traditionally held to be available to every American” (Random House 1). However, most Americans strive towards the American Dream without knowing this definition. That is because you cannot give the American Dream a clear definition, it has an ever changing meaning. The American Dream of today is certainly not the same as what it was fifty years ago. In fact, fifty years ago in the 1960s the American Dream was simply peace, freedom and equality. During this time, the Civil Rights Movement was taking place in which African Americans were fighting for their freedom. There were many men and women who emerged as extremely influential people in the movement; one of them being James Brown.
James Brown grew up in hard times and somehow managed to make a name for himself in times where it was almost impossible for African Americans to get any recognition. Throughout his life James Brown struggled with everything from personal tragedy to addiction to crime. Despite all of this, James Brown achieved the American Dream of the 1960s by prospering in the music industry during a time of segregation while fighting for his beliefs through his music. The “Godfather of Soul”, the “Inventor of Funk”, James Brown was an extremely popular and influential artist of the 1960s (“James Joe Brown Jr.” 1). Yet his fame was unequivocally not handed to him. He put his blood, sweat and tears into his music and his career. James Brown was born into extreme privation in rural South Carolina. He was so poor he was sent home from school once because of “insufficient clothing” (“James Joe Brown Jr.” 1). Nevertheless, Brown overcame the obstacles in his life and became one of the most successful men in the entertainment industry during the 1960s. At this point in time, this was a very arduous thing to accomplish.
The 1960s was saturated with important events; enough things occurred in this decade to fill an entire century. Music, of course, played a significant role in the 1960s; Rock n’ Roll was born. Along with the new music came hippies, drugs and a sexual revolution. In addition, there was the Vietnam War which caused major protests all around the country. Above all, the most defining characteristic of the sixties was the Civil Rights Movement (O’Neil ix). Of course there was also JFK’s assassination, women’s liberation and the first man to walk on the moon (Brokaw xi).
With all of these affairs manifesting, the American Dream of the sixties was clearly established. To put it as simplistic as possible, Americans wanted change. They strove for peace and love; they dreamt of security, of equal rights and of prosperity. To make this dream come true, there were thousands of protests and demonstrations. The start of all these demonstrations can be traced back to one woman (Neary 110).
This brave African American woman, Rosa Parks, decided one day that she would not give up her seat on the bus to a white person. Due to her actions, she was arrested. Even though she was brought to jail, her efforts sparked a revolution. Both African Americans and whites began protesting in a myriad of ways. There were sit-ins in which African Americans would go to a restaurant and when they were refused service, they would simply sit there all day taking up space. Then there was also the “freedom riders”. Additionally, there was a March on Washington where MLK gave his famous “I have a dream...” speech (Neary 110). All of these protests show that Americans were fighting for equality.
Then, when the Vietnam War was occurring, most Americans opposed the war. They didn’t see the need for countless lives to be lost. Therefore, antiwar demonstrators held many protests in which they yelled their motto, “Hell, no, we won’t go”. They dressed as skeletons or carried coffins to commemorate all of the...
Cited: "American Dream." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 02 Apr. 2013. .
Brokaw, Tom, and John Neary. Life: The ‘60s. Ed. Doris C. O’Neil. Chicago: Bulfinch, 1989. Print.
Brown, James. I Feel Good: A Memoir of a Life of Soul. New York: Penguin Group, 2008. Print.
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Shmoop Editorial Team. "Say It Loud (I 'm Black and I 'm Proud) Meaning" Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 7 Apr. 2013.
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