Monday, June 17, 2013

Rock & Roll in the 1950s

1.0.0 Introduction It is very difficult to imagine that there was a time in which rock music did not exist. The Rock and Roll genre of music, commonly referred to as rock music, is said to have its advents in the middle of the 20th century, the year 1954 to be precise. The 1950s years are often time portrayed as the decade in which teenagers dominated the music scene and singles were substituted for albums. While the teenagers’ parents were still listening to artists like Frank Sinatra, the Big Bands and Peri Como, the youngsters had moved a step forwards and were now dancing to a new beat. To the dismay and consternation of the older generation, the teenagers were not just dancing; they were grinding, twisting, banging and thrusting their bodies in ways no one had thought possible before (Padel, p. 46). As if this was not enough, the 1950s was quite a prosperous era in comparison to the past decades and the teenagers- whose population was very high- could easily access the money that they required to utilize in record and phonographs. By the time the 1950s came to a close, rock music was the litmus test through which the division between youth and adulthood could be defined. This paper aims at discussing the rock and roll genre of music in the 1950s as well as the historical, financial and social conditions of the time. In addition to discussing the most popular rock artists and bands at the time the manner in which society reacted to rock music as well as the development of rock and roll in the 1950s will be discussed. 2.0.0 History of Rock and Roll Rock and roll music is commonly characterized by the use of the electric guitar, bass guitar and drums. In addition to this, rock music tends to incline towards live performances and the musicianship of the artists. In addition to this, Aranda (p. 2) claims that the artists’ voices and vocal styles have a propensity towards being very callous, menacing and raw. The drums and guitars that accompany rock music are played very loudly and the lyrics are suggestive or even explicit. More over, rock music performances or recordings are characterized by an aura of intense emotion and excitement. Rock and roll music has gone through many changes from Elvis Presley in the 1950s to the Beatles and Bon Jovi. The rock and roll genre of music did not develop from a vacuum like many like to believe; rather it resulted from the amalgamation of the Rhythm & Blues and Country genres of music. The Blues genre of music had their origins in the slave trade era when Africans were ferried from Africa to come under forced servitude in America ands other parts of Europe. As the Africans toiled for their colonial masters they sung spiritual and works songs to comfort themselves and create hope for a better future. The Rhythm & Blues from which rock and role music originated developed from these Blues. The convergence of these two music genres was then enhanced by a number of technological improvements and the result was the rock and roll genre which revolutionized the music industry (Padel, p. 47). There are a number of false impressions about the advent of rock music that are commonly harbored by the general public in the present day. One of this fallacies is the fact that rock music was a new style of music; as already indicated, this is not true since rock and roll simple emerged from the combination of R n B and country music. Secondly, it is indeed fallacious to claim that the first form of music to closely interrelate the pop styles by the whites and blacks. It is also noteworthy that the designation rock and roll emerged so as to identify a new group of consumers that could consumer music services and products: The new target in the 1950s was the youth. According to Padel (p. 46) these were the baby boomers who had been conceived in the period after the World War 2. In addition to being quite young, this target audience shared common features in the sense of cultural identity that they created for themselves. Firstly, they were trying to recover from the devastation that typified the WW2 and lead normal lives. In addition to this, the television was very popular at this time particularly in the broadcasting of music and other forms of entertainment. 3.0.0 Major Rock and Roll Artists and Songs in the 1950s One of the most famous innovators of the rock and roll music genre in the 1950s- Little Richard- is quoted as saying that “Rhythm and Blues had a baby and somebody named it Rock and Roll”. Aranda (p. 2) claims that the validity of this statement by Richard was depicted in the fact that most of the initial rock and roll music was done by artists who were very important in the R ‘n’ B industry for instance Joe Turner, Muddy Waters, Ray Charles and Willie Mae Thorton. Other famous rock and roll artists of the 1950ss were among others Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley. These were ordinary youth that grew up in the ordinary and common American setting. Nelson became an instant hit the moment he took his guitar and unleashed rock and roll tunes such as It’s Late in the year 1959, which caused waves in the music industry. The American Bandstand headed by Dick Clarke not only took seriously its role of creating rock and roll artists but also went a step further to present the rock and roll fraternity with interesting dance styles and steps. Other very well known artists of this time that contributed immensely to rock music and its development in the 1950s include Carl Perkins, The Crickets, Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino and Buddy Holly (Aranda, p. 1). The popular rock and roll artists at this time produced songs that were very popular. Aranda (p.1) reveals that Presley is the rock star that had the greatest impact on rock music. Elvis Presley for example sung JailHouse Rock, Hound Dog, Don’t be Cruel, Heart Break Hotel and That’s Alright (Which collaborated Scott and Billy). Chuck Berry’s most popular songs were Johnny B. Goode, Maybellene, School Day, Rock and Roll Music and Roll over Beethoven. According to Aranda (p. 1) Chuck Berry was a great inspiration for all teens but particularly fro the black youngsters. Little Richard sang Rip it Up, Titti-Frutti, Long Tall Sally, Good Golly Miss Molly and Lucile. 4.0.0 Major American Regions in Which Rock Music Dominated Rock music was listened to in a number of regions in America. The inventions and advancements ensured that rock music was disseminated to all parts of the American nation that had been achieved in technology at this time. According to Aranda (p. 2) one of the areas in which rock music was not only known but also listened to by a large audience in the 1950s was Chicago. A great majority of the teenagers in Chicago listened to rock music on WLS 890- this was a radio station that was known to play the most popular songs at time (Aranda, p. 2). 5.0.0 Historical, Social and Financial Conditions in 1950s As already mentioned, the 1950s in which the rock and roll type of music gained popularity was the period just after the Second World War. Vatter (1963) claims that even though there were no phenomenal breakthroughs in the financial system of America in the 1950s, there were also no major problems and the economy was stable and consistently growing. By the end of the 1950s the America economy was already at its peak. Despite the economic prosperity and stability of financial systems, the American society was recovering from the effects of this war in which it had participated actively. More over, America lived in constant wariness of an atomic bomb attack by the USSR in the period commonly described as the Cold War. As a consequence of America’s Cold War with the Soviet Union, the anticommunist associations in America gained great momentum. As if this was not enough, the society in America burst out in a new surge of racism after the American Supreme Court listened to the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954vand ruled that all forms of racial segregation in American public schools be done away with. 6.0.0 Impacts of Rock Music The advent of rock music impacted the American society and culture in ways that no other form of music had been able to in the past. The impacts were indiscriminate and cut across every aspect of society from fashion, dance style, language and even the personalities of people. The youth were the first to be affected and they in turn influenced the rest of the society. The emergence of rock and roll music in the 1950s prompted a lot of transformations in the American society. Music and dance styles that had before this decade been perceived as belonging to the periphery of the mainstream popular genres of music had not only gotten into the centre of the music industries but also subjugated the music industry of the time. The increased popularity of rock music meant that anyone interest could easily access it in music retail centers in different regions of America. In addition to this, the mass media fashioned a new category of celebrity pop star; rather than the previous pop stars that were depicted as being very super talented and detached from the ordinary life of the common folks, the new pop stars were regular teenagers. Padel (p. 46) claims that one of the most significant impacts of rock and role music was the impact that it had on the youth, particularly in the definition of the age group. Teenagers developed a propensity to associate with rock music and develop a sense of identity and belonging around it. Padel (p. 47) claims that this in turn led to the formulation of a teen culture amongst the baby boomer generation who than embraced rock music as part of their recreational activities and unique sub culture. The teen culture that was formed by rock and roll also include the behavior of the teens as depicted in their hair styles, film preferences, motorcycle culture and language (Padel, p. 48). The blunt expression by rock stars of issues previously referred to using euphemisms caused great dismay to the parents and religious leaders of the 1950s. To make matters worse the dancing styles associated with rock and roll music were not only very provocative but obscene and suggestive of the sexual activity. More over, the advent of rock music and campaigns for free expression caused a great number of teenagers to rebel against their parents causing the older generation to abhor rock and roll even more. It was for this reason that rock music sent shockwaves in different regions of America. According to Joseph (2003) within a short time the American churches had declared rock music “Satan’s music”. The fact that rock music had its origins from the lower classes and prejudiced minorities many European Americans in the middle classes considered it “tasteless”. Frank Sinatra in the year 1957 is quoted as stating that “Rock and roll is the most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression- lewd, sly, in plain fact, dirty- a rancid-smelling aphrodisiac and the martial music of every side-burned delinquent on the face of the earth”. Despite this, however, the general public liked the music and that is all that seemed to matter. According to Aranda (p. 1) the advent of rock music also influenced the phenomena of freedom of expression and racial equality in America. After the World War 2 the racial barriers that had initially existed between the whites and blacks were weakening at a very high rate. European Americans were becoming more accommodative of the African Americans and the violence and disparities that existed between the two groups were gradually being redressed. The fusion of rhythm and blues and country music and the advent of rock music thus played a very significant role in further breaking the racial barriers in America and enhancing racial equality. More over, rock music impacted the American society in that it enhanced the freedom of expression particularly amongst the youth. The pioneering of dance styles such as hip grinding and swinging by Elvis Presley was appalling to a majority of the older population in America leading to Presley being banned from the television shows of the day unless he consented to standing still or the filming of his upper body only. Despite this ban the youth had began to express themselves-and their sexuality- more freely. Rock and roll artists that existed after the 1950s such as the Beatles would later o campaign aggressively for the freedom of speech and expression through their musical lyrics. 7.0.0 Decline of Rock Music Hatch and Millward (p. 110) claim that although it did not entirely fade out, rock and roll declined by the end of the 1950s. There are a number of events that led to this decline, most of them closely linked to the activities of the artists that were the major proponents of rock and roll music in the 1950s era. Firstly, Elvis Presley did not inject so much of his to time to music after he left to join the army. Secondly, Little Richard, one of the most famous innovators of the rock and roll music genre, underwent a change over in his life and decided to become a preacher. Other important figures such as Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis were prosecuted and could not propel the rock and roll music industry any further than they already had. By the time Elvis Presley returned from official army duties in German, he was no longer as radical in his songs as he had been; on the contrary, he sung softer pop style songs and by the year 1960 he was a stylist for pop style songs (Vaillancourt, p. 9). 8.0.0 Conclusion One of the most phenomenal music genres in America is rock music. As already indicated in this paper, rock music has its advent in the fusion of Rhythm & Blues and Country music. There were a number of famous rock artists and songs in the 1950s for instance Elvis Presley for example sung JailHouse Rock, Hound Dog, Don’t be Cruel, Heart Break Hotel and That’s Alright (collaborated with Scott and Billy). Chuck Berry’s most popular songs were Johnny B. Goode, Maybellene, School Day, Rock and Roll Music and Roll over Beethoven. According to Aranda (p. 1) Chuck Berry was a great inspiration for all teens but particularly fro the black youngsters. Little Richard sang Rip it Up, Titti-Frutti, Long Tall Sally, Good Golly Miss Molly and Lucile. The society in America during the 1950s reacted differently to the advent of rock music. The blunt expression by rock stars of issues previously referred to using euphemisms caused great dismay to the parents and religious leaders of the 1950s. A number of rock music shows in the 1950s were cancelled and artists such as Presley banned from appearing on television shows. A number of American churches even declared rock music “Satan’s music”.The advent of rock and roll music had many impacts on the American society and culture. The impacts were indiscriminate and cut across every aspect of society from fashion, dance style, language and even the personalities of people. The youth were the first to be affected and they in turn influenced the rest of the society. The emergence of rock and roll music in the 1950s prompted a lot of transformations in the American society. Although it remains clear that some of the rock and roll artists such as Elvis Presley and Sam Phillips were way ahead of their time by advocating for racial equality and freedom of expression, they paved way for more elaborate discussions in the socio-political agencies of America and led to the freedom and equality the Americans experience in the modern day. 9.0.0 Work Cited Aranda, Carla: The Rock and Roll Era and its Effects on Teens, Jamieson School- Chicago (2005), pp. 1-3 D. Hatch and S. Millward: From blues to rock: an analytical history of pop music (Manchester: Manchester University Press ND, (1987), p. 110 Joseph, Mark: Faith, God, and Rock + Roll: From Bono to Jars of Clay: How People of Faith Are Transforming American Popular Music. Baker Books (2003) Padel, Ruth: I'm a Man: Sex, Gods, and Rock 'n' Roll. Faber and Faber, (2000), pp. 46–48 Vaillancourt, Eric: Rock and Roll in the 1950s: Rocking for Civil Rights, Education and Human Development Master’s Thesis Vatter, Harold G: The U.S. Economy in the 1950s, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, (1963)