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
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
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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