The Social Realities of Rock N' Roll's Birth and the Teenager
The story of the birth of rock n' roll has a mythical quality to it. It speaks of racial barriers bridged through the fusion of Afro-American musical styles with white popular music in 1950s America. Not only did white record producers and radio disc jockeys market Afro-American artists, but white artists began to cover their songs, as well as incorporate Afro-American style into their own song writing. The musical style was so powerful that the white audience was infected by it, despite the social stigma that listening to "race music" possessed. The common view of teenagers' participation in the creation of rock n' roll as an act of rebellion runs parallel with the music's legendary origins. Through rock n' roll, the teenagers of the United States created a generational gap that angered their parents' generation. Teenagers rejected kitchy Tin Pan Alley, "Sing Along with Mitch," and the sleepy crooning of Perry Como in favour of sexually charged race music. Historians have taken different approaches to the question of teen rebellion. While some consider their love of rock n' roll revolutionary, others argue that the music cemented teenagers within the conformity and materialism of the 1950s; what cars were to adults, rock n' roll was to teens.
In dealing with these issues, historians have neglected to examine the social implication of "race music" on a white audience, specifically teenagers. Historians most often explain the origins of the music as something of a legend; Afro-American music and culture is praised, and white American society is indebted to the cultural enrichment it has received from it. Afro-American music saved white society from being boring. The social realities of the United States during that decade make this birth story seem hypocritical and condescending. The 1950s did not produce harmony between the black and white populations of