Rock And Roll Music in the 1950’s
Stark State College of Technology
Rock And Roll Music in the 1950’s
Many think of the 1960s as a turning point. It was an era when everything changed. Children grew up and learned the realities of war, and death. As Bob Dylan sang, the times were changing. And rock and roll would be something to accompany the changes. In some way, one can think of rock as a catalyst as music does turn a nation into zombies of sorts. Indeed, if rock were not so powerful, Ozzy Osbourne would not have been charged with putting ideas in a teen's head that purportedly caused his suicide. Ozzy's song Suicide Solution, he claims, is not about suicide at all. Also, when the Columbine incident occurred, some analysts blamed it all on rock music. Rock is something of a dividing line between generations still, it was a trend that started in the 1950s. The year 1951 was when the term "rock and roll" was coined (Goode 8). It was a new type of music and little did those jamming on drums and electric guitars know that it would be a trend that would continue for decades. A half century later, there are a variety of rock genres but it is still all rock and roll, or at least it emanated from the old fashioned variety. There is a bit of a discrepancy in how it came about, something important to understanding the cultural changes it brought. The 1960s was a decade defined by race relations. Thus, it is interesting to note that some contend rock came from African American culture. Chappell claims: "The music of the Black Church and the music of the blues are the bedrock of what became known as rock 'n' roll” (145). Many people however associate the origins of rock with white boys, who would by the 1960s grow their hair long, much to the dismay of the older generation. While the debate continues in respect to rock being a black or white phenomenon, some see it as mixed. Welch explains that the 1950s "blended black and white musical traditions and integrated black performers into the pantheon of musical superstars in an unprecedented fashion" (32). The revolution encouraged the desegregation movement of the 1956 through 1964 period and more generally, the revolution created a music genre which became the common property of millions throughout the world (32). It created an influential form of American popular culture (32). Much of its success was owed to the adolescent subculture though (Welch 32). Although adolescence is generally a time of rebellion against adult authority and mores, nothing seen prior to the time period was quite as dramatic as the transformation of adolescents from an age group to a virtual class after the Second World War (32). To some degree, this had been a consequence of the increasingly large number of teenagers around (32). In fact, the baby boom did have a role in the power of rock. There were so many teenagers that rock and roll quickly became a part of the popular culture and it was something that many would find rather rebellious. The long hair of the Beatles that would eventually surface in the early sixties and Elvis's pelvis movement defied cultural norms. The trend continued through the decades. Madonna would begin to perform in underwear on her tours and little by little, artists would push cultural boundaries. Cursing is part of the vernacular. There have been arrests due to indecency on stage. While the 1950s was seen as rebellious merely for creating rock, once accepted, like a chameleon, it would move on. Part of the reason that rock took off had to do with economics. After 1945, American teenagers enjoyed an unprecedented amount of affluence and so their taste in film, music, and literature had been supported by enormous purchasing power that record producers and film-makers were quick to satisfy (Welch 32). By 1950, there had been signs that American teenagers were rejecting the popular culture that had flourished during the Depression and war...
References: Chappell, Kevin. "How Blacks Invented Rock and Roll. " Ebony Jul, 2001: 145-146.
Goode, Stephen. "The Fifties: Hotbed Of New Vocabulary. " Insight on the News 18 Feb 2003: 8.
Katz, Jon. "The media 's war on kids." Rolling Stone 25 Nov 1993: 47-50.
Lornell, Kip and Moreland, Kim. "Book notes: Popular culture." American Studies International 31(2) (1993): 115 - 116.
Welch, R. "Rock 'n ' roll and social change." History Today 40 (2) (1990): 32-39.
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