Rock n Roll & 20th Century Culture

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Rock ‘n’ roll and 20th Century Culture According to Philip Ennis, rock ‘n’ roll emerged from the convergence of social transformations which resulted from World War II (Ryan 927). Despite its pop culture origins, rock music is arguably one of the strongest cultural factors to develop in this century. Artists such as Lennon, McCartney and Dylan defined the emotions of a generation and, in the last decade, it as even been acknowledged by members of the establishment which it hoped to change as a major influence in the country. In order to understand how rock went from a sign of rebellion to a cultural icon, it is necessary to understand where it came from. According to Albert Murray, the African-American musical tradition is “fundamentally stoical yet affirmative in spirit” (Star 3). Through the medium of the blues, African-Americans expressed a resilience of spirit which refused to be crippled by either poverty or racism. It is through music that the energies and dexterities of black American life are sounded and expressed (39). For the black culture in this country, the music of Basie or Ellington expressed a “wideawake, forward-tending” rhythm that one can not only dance to but live by (Star 39). Although he later denied that he ever said it, Sam Phillips-the man who discovered Elvis Presley-is reputed to have said, “if I could find a white man who had the Negro sound the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars” (Decurtis 78). Certain radio stations would not play the work of black artists in the segregated America of the 1950s. But, nevertheless, rock ‘n’ roll was an art form created by African-Americans. Little Richard, whose songs “Tutti Fruitti” and “Long Tall Sally” became hits only after white-bread versions were made by Pat Boone, said, “It started out as rhythm and blues” (Decurtis 78). Through Elvis Presley, rock ‘n’ roll changed the face of American music, and influenced a whole generation’s political philosophy. Composer Leonard Berstein once said, “He introduced the beat to everything and changed everything-music, language, clothes; it’s a whole new social revolution-the 60s come from it” (Wattenberg 6B). To his credit, Elvis embraced rhythm and blues not as a from to be imitated, but as a form to honored and interprete... ... middle of paper ... ... to American History. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co. Goodman, Dean. “Dylan fans get tangled up in academic views,” Reuters (1998): February, p. PG. Harris, James F. “Listen to the music: the meaning of classic rock,” The World & I, Vol. 11, 12 Ed. (1996): December, pp. 306. Ryan, John. “The Seventh Stream: The emergency of rock n roll in American popular music,” (Book reviews) Social Forces (1994): March, p. 927. Star, Alexander. “Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music” (book reviews) The New Republic, Vol. 210. (1994): May, pp. 39-42. Wattenberg, Daniel. “Elvis as force for social change has sadly been forgotten,” Rocky Mountain News. (1997): August, pp. 6B.

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