History Of Music And Its Impact On

Society Essay, Research Paper

Rock music has affected society in the twentieth century in a large way. Rock music started in the 1950s with various small bands such as Bill Haley and Elvis Presley. These pioneers of modern music drew a larger crowd at each show, and soon, rock music would be in the ears of almost every American.

Rock and roll contributes many things back to people when they listen to it. It gives people things like a change to let out anger or aggression. One thing that happened when people listened to this to get their anger out was that people would relive these angry moments or feelings and become aggressive once again. Rock and roll is a kind of music and music is a form of art, therefore there were many aspiring artists in this era of music. These people have also added a new category to artistic expression. One other idea that rock music contributed was the simple idea of having almost everything going on the beat. When dancing, the beat is a major factor in music and people who dance took kindly to this type of music in a big way. A problem that was upon these people was the faster tempos as in swing and older music, when paired up with parents and authority figures. The opposition of the elders caused many conflicts in families, and also public attractions. “What appealed to this new audience, accustomed to the relatively bland Tin Pan Alley brand of popular music, was rock ‘n’ roll’s driving dance rhythms, its direct, adolescent-level message, and it’s suggestion of youthful rebellion.” (Pg. 14; The Mansion On the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-on Collision of Rock and Commerce)

Alan Freed was a disc jockey in the mid 1950s, who supported and played much of this new “rock and roll” music. He was the one who gave the name “rock and roll” to this type of music. The term was derived from a sexual reference in one of the more popular songs at that time. This meant that people would grow up with the idea of this sexual reference in their minds and not have much control over it. This type of music was definitely going to be a different type of music genre to say the least.

Elvis Presley, a man who lead the way for “rockabilly” artists (rock and hillbilly) in the 1950’s, but what Elvis was known for was his voice and his moves. He would move in certain ways that might suggest ideas to members of the opposite sex. Along with leading the way for rockabilly artists, he lead the way for presenters to do more than just sing and dance. “Rock ‘n’ roll’s first superstar was Elvis Presley…with his spasmodic hip gyrations, he introduced a sexual suggestiveness that outraged conservative adults; with his legions of teenage fans, he brought to rock ‘n’ roll the cult of personality and became the archetype of the rock star as a cultural hero.” (pg. 29-30; Big Beat Heat) As in the case of Alan Freed, Elvis Presley had elders who weren’t fans of his “spasmodic hip gyrations”, but even through this the real fans fought their way to see Elvis, even if it meant doing things which conflicted with their parents’ rules.

In the sixties, trends of people called “hippies” brought a wholesome idea of love and peace into the circulation of popular suggestiveness. Many people in bands at this time were filling these roles. These people such as members of “the Mamas and the Papas”, “the Grateful Dead”, Jimi Hendrix, and “Pink Floyd”, promoted the newly fashioned idea of peace and love, and along with it a darker trend. The use of drugs was glorified in many ways by the bands above, the rock and roll characterized by glorifying drugs was called “acid rock”. One large event in time was “Woodstock” in 1969, here, all the ideas of peace, love, and drugs were brought out and brought together to create a crazy scene of young people and rock music. One other ideal that the “hippies” had was anti-violence, which was virtually impossible seing as how the Vietnam War was going on at this time. The fans responded just as the bands did about drugs, they also agreed to promoting peace and love as the bands did, but a the major idea that these people had was to protest the violence of war. Some musicians at Woodstock and all around were prompting the young people to protest Vietnam and just violence all over. Many people did protest and were arrested. These sharings of ideals show some connection to rock and roll and the lives of the youth of the United States of America. “…over the course of the decade the music changed to parallel trends of hippies, student protest, and a counterculture affair with drugs…”(Pg. 37; Rock Eras).

More aggressive versions of rock were formed in the later parts of the century. In the 1980’s and the 1990’s different genres of rock music were formed. “Punk rock” and “hard rock” both have similar ideas in the lyrics and music. Some ideas impressed upon the youth of the country were ideas of anti-politics. These songs let out feeling of opposition to the government and many people listened. People started to feel deceived by the government, how they were raised, and just generally the order in which our country works whether it be society, economics, etc. Also, people started to feel deceived by their religion and started looking elsewhere for religion. These ideas led to riots in some towns and many restrictions in every day life of people. “English influence returned later in the decade with punk rock, expressing the discontent of working-class youth.”(pg. 74; Rock Music in America) “Other styles, more clearly based on rock principles and precedents, ranged from the benign bubble-gum rock of the Osmond Brothers…to the intentionally vile punk rock, which punctuated its strident denunciations with vulgarity. Heavy metal rock continued the hallucinogenic approach of acid rock, but within a narrower musical dimension…”(Pg. 92; American Popular Music)

Rock music also has expanded ideas of composers and performers in many ways, the mixing and sharing of techniques and sounds was abundant and a very affective approach to making newer sounds. Musicians such as Paul Simon and David Byrne “borrowed” sounds from certain backgrounds such as those of Africa, Latin countries, and England. Now all around the world rock is known, and our rock has been influenced by other countries. This shows how people, composers, and performers have come together from around the world and share many ideas of music.

Also, adding to the complexity of how rock has influenced us in the twentieth century, the issue of the performer versus the composer of the music. Quite frankly, the distinction between the two had virtually disappeared. In the past song would be written by a talented composer trained in composing pieces of music. The performer would take this music and play it how the composer wanted to hear it. Now, with the era of rock music and many fusion bands, the need for the two people is unnecessary. In fact, some bands never actually write their music down on paper, it is all remembered by feelings and memories, or it is improvised. “…the separation between performer and composer seemed to vanish as the two merged in a single performer-composer. As demonstrated by the Woodstock Festival in August 1969, rock music was by this time an intrinsic element in life of American youth and a powerful articulation of their moods, hopes, and fears.” (Pg. 138; Rock On)

Rock and roll music plays a major role in the lives of Americans as well as other countries around the world. It came as a minor trend of music but it proved to be a major way of music as a whole. “The scope and significance of rock remains without precedent in the history of popular music. Beginning as a minority expression on the fringe of American society, it developed into a distinct counterculture during the 1960’s and a decade later had become a dominant cultural force, affecting and reflecting the mores and moods of American youth and weaving itself into the fabric of society.”(Pg. 187; Mystery Train 3D)


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