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How Rock Shaked Rattled and Rolled America

Updated on October 3, 2017
The best place to go on a date for young people was 'The Hop' or simply, a Burger joint. With just a nickel in the jukebox, rock n roll would In Bill Haley's words "Rock this Joint Tonight"
The best place to go on a date for young people was 'The Hop' or simply, a Burger joint. With just a nickel in the jukebox, rock n roll would In Bill Haley's words "Rock this Joint Tonight" | Source

Milkshakes at the Hop: The Birth of American Rock

Ah yes, the 1950's. A time in America were the American Dream was actually happening. World War 2 was done, the young men who fought were now married, and every American home had a television set, a Belair in the driveway in front of a white picket fence, and of course, a child. By the 50's most of the baby boomer generation were now teens. Like any teenager, no matter the time or age, they rebelled. Their rebellion came in the form of greased hair, leather jackets, tight jeans, and tshirts for men, also known as Greasers. (Just think of big shot Danny Zuko played by John Travolta in Grease)

Young women were becoming more liberated with lifestyle and fashion as well. They didn't want to follow the 'American dream family' where she marries at 19 and remains submissive to her husband. 50's Rock fueled these rebellious behaviors. So much that, those styles weren't allowed in schools. Hair had to be a specific length for boys, and skirts and dresses couldn't be above the knee (Some things don't change. Am I right)? Let's just say, I don't think parents approved of Elvis Presley's hip thrusts.

It wasn't just a genre that changed the behavior and gender roles of teenagers, but helped people of color. The 50's skyrocketed in the amount of bands or solo artists. By 1957 Little Richard's hit was Tutti Frutti. Little Richard and Chuck Berry are considered as the pioneers and fathers of American Rock n Roll. Aretha Franklin, and groups like The Coasters, The Penguins, and Del Vikings were founded. It was a time that women entered the rock scene, with groups like The Chordettes and Shirlies. Rock was a cultural explosion for teens, women, and people of color in the 50's. A time when racism and sexsism was at its high.

Rock in the 60's was a progressive era for women's liberation. Janis Joplin was an idol for women in 60's America, even today.
Rock in the 60's was a progressive era for women's liberation. Janis Joplin was an idol for women in 60's America, even today. | Source

From San Francisco, CA To Woodstock, NY

The 1960's was an expressive era as far as music. Full of color, raw voices, from George Harrison's melancholic guitar to Jimi Hendrix's thundering riffs. The 1960's had it all. Drug influenced music such as Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit played on an LP in a young hippie's bedroom. The 1960's was a time in America where racial segregation was ripping apart the south, and the war in Vietnam was ripping apart America. Other than making great movie soundtracks, anti-war music of the 60's changed American Culture. It was the attitude that the music has influenced. Women burned bras, and wore more revealing clothing, and at Woodstock, walking in the nude. Singers like Janis Joplin helped break the gender barrier as what women are capable of. People of color were under fire too. With the Alabama riots, segregation, and basically being seen as sub human, they found their way into music.

Famed Jimi Hendrix was one of those artists, as well as Sly and Family Stone, who had the psychedelic rock influences like their peers, but added their own roots with soul and funk. Music at this time began to open minds about women, and their abilities to do more than what society expects, and that people of color are just as talented and capable as their white peers.

Pink Floyd's Animals was released in 1977, this is their tour the same year.
Pink Floyd's Animals was released in 1977, this is their tour the same year. | Source

Rock n Roll Just Got Louder

By 1970, Rock n Roll had a new face to it. It was faster, heavier, louder and full of diverse sound. More female super groups such as Runaways (If you heard of Joan Jett, this was her first group. In the 80's she would go on to create her own group Joan Jett and The Blackhearts) and The Gogos were coming in, and female solo artists such as Donna Summer, Patti Smith, Pat Benatar and Dolly Parton. The previous generation fueled the confidence to get more women in the male dominant world of rock.

Rock slowly began morphing into heavy metal. Bands like Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd (Who in the 70's had a more hard rock era) had heavy guitar riffs in their music, and dressed in the Rock n Roll style we all know today. Just like that, youth began to outgrow their hair, smoke more weed, and have more sex. Afterall, "Hey hey mama said the way you move gonna make you sweat gonna make you groove" ~Black Dog, Led Zeppelin

1980 MTV

So, Music's on TV now?

Before it became a reality TV channel, Music Television (MTV) streamed music videos, which helped boom the music industry. The ability to broadcast music videos on so many channels, with various cable companies, nationwide helped new bands make their surgence. There was also a change in the technology used in the 80's decade. More and more bands began using synths. Many artists began doing benefit concerts, more than in any other decade. The number of female solo artists and female supergroups have since doubled.

The 80's also brought a new way to listen to music, compact disks. All you needed was a portable CD player and headphones, and you were set to go. I don't know about you, but frankly, I prefer glistening off my phone at 1% than listening music from a portable CD player.

This is the Vancouver Punk scene in 1990
This is the Vancouver Punk scene in 1990 | Source

Smells Like Teen Spirit... Seriously

The 90's rock scene is the stereotype everyone places on an edgy high schooler. Rock became more coarse with some heavy metal influences thrown into the pile. Bands such as Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Matchbox twenty, Audioslave and Soundgarden, gave rock a new name. So did the uprising of punk rock with bands like Greenday, and Blink 182 joining the scene of a teenage wasteland. This genre is to this day loved by standalone teenagers, even those who graduated Middle School in 2005 enjoy jamming out to Basketcase.

Digital age

In 60 years, rock music has transformed itself. From upbeat acoustic dance songs 50's theme burger joints still play, to a punk inspired indie rock band from LA. Today, no need for MTV, or a music scene, we have it all on our phones. Music from all the previous generations are still enjoyed by the younger generations, and the old are discovering the new thanks to Spotify and YouTube.

No matter the decade it came from or our age, music inspires us all. But Rock n Roll really did change America's culture. It liberated women through musical expression, had an entire generation write and sing songs against the war, then help the gloomy 90's teenagers, to now, were any song can be played at your fingertips.

Favorite Rock Decade

Which Decade was the best for Rock?

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