Rock N Roll In The 1950S

Essay, Research Paper

Rock n Roll, characterized by it’s pulsating drums, repetitive chord progressions, stepped up tempos, and loud guitars, provided. American teens of the 1950’s the perfect excuse to dance crazy new dances, and wear wild new hairstyles. Thought only a fad, Rock n roll continued on to become one of the world’s most popular and recognizable music forms.

The explosive events of the mid-1950s first introduced the idea of rock ‘n’ roll to the world. It is the themes and artistic styles of that very special, very brief time, that spawned the movement, and that later artists have simply refined and redefined. The 1950s were rather safe and innocent, and rock ‘n roll established a foundation for the ideals that youth could pursue in such an environment. When issues of race relations, war, sexuality, drugs, ecology, and world hunger arose in later years, rock ‘n roll was forced, like every other ideology, to respond to them. Many of these concerns were of central importance to the kids who reared on in rock ‘n roll as a lifestyle that only heightens the significance of their common response, as expressed in and through the music.

Music in the 1950s lacked overriding social or political themes, but the energy, vitality, and originality of rock ‘n roll is unmatched by almost everything that has come along since. In 1955, rock n roll was still just a vague notion, an alternative term for Rhythm & Blues, and popular as a genre only among covert groups of youth who had discovered the R&B radio stations ( For the people who did know about it, however, rock n roll was a channel for young Americans to pour out their emotions. Through songs by artists such as Elvis Presley and Little Richard, teenagers were able to pinpoint their feelings. Among these songs arose a spirit of revolt teenagers weren t children anymore, they were nearly adults. Rock n roll songs gave them the ability to express their near adult-hood minds and bodies.

The effect of this era onto teenagers of the time will always be set in an image of teenage girls swooning and screaming at the feet of a rock n roll artist. Many parents linked rock n roll with sex and rebellion (Enduring Vision, 956). Elvis Presley, in particular, was one of the most famous rock n roll legends of the time. He connected passion and rebellion in his music, forcing parents to hide their children from his music. Although Presley received disapproval from the older generation of the 1950s, he was adored graciously girls screamed at his voice and swooned at his pouty-surly expression; boys wore their hair long and greasy in imitation of the superstar (Enduring Vision, 957).

Rock n roll gave rise to the importance of radio and television programming. Parents began replacing their first televisions with newer models and teens were often given the old one. Television began to lose audience in the early evening hours and began programming to the teens and young adults. To convert these viewers, they began programming shows that featured a younger sound that featured rhythm and blues, doo-wop, a form of R&B based harmony vocalizing using phonetic or nonsense syllables (like a repeated “doo-wop”) for rhythm and intricate harmonic arrangements (, and were hosted by “personality deejays.” Radio stations began to play recorded music instead of presenting live programs. Stations introduced a new wave of radio announcers disk jockeys (Brinkley, 1011). The public was then fully exposed to the rock n roll era. Recording executives often encouraged radio and television personalities to showcase their artists. Later on in the 1950s, however, a scandal erupted from the depths of the rock n roll age. Executives bribed disk jockeys and other radio personalities to endorse their artists. This scandal is known as payola, a contraction of the words pay and Victrola ( By the late fifties, rock and roll had begun to move away from the raw immediacy of its early stars and become a vehicle for the banal contrivances of camera friendly faces singing songs about teenage romance. It had barely established itself, yet rock and roll was losing its rebellious edge and drifting away, becoming nothing more then a catchphrase for corporate-sponsored teen music with a beat.

The inception of the Rock era, brought about by a confluence of ideas and feelings and creative experiments, was founded on the restlessness and dispossession growing among American children of the Second World War. This was no small moment in history, for the effects of these two years’ echoes continue to spread to other nations, to new generations, to the thrones of power and the seats of wealth, as well as to the driven out and restless youth of a new era. Rock ‘n roll revival is only partly nostalgic: it also signifies a yearning for rejuvenation, for the kind of exuberance that star-crossed kids shared over thirty years ago. Although the movement has wandered many and varied paths during those years, it has retained at least the unconscious memory of its glorious birth.



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