Let's Rock and Roll

Rock Music as a Social and Political Force

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Music is the language of the world; it brings people together through the ups and downs of one's life. Throughout history, music has had a significant influence on various cultures and groups of people. With this great influence, music has had its negative and positive outlooks due to the subject matter of certain songs and the artists that represent the various music genres. This comes down to the listener of the music and their background. The negative and positive outlooks make music a debatable topic to discuss; the questions in mind being: what are the negative and positive aspects of certain musical genres? And how greatly does music influence individuals in both negative and positive ways? I want to answer these questions by going over one of my favorite genres, rock. I am constantly listening to rock music and different artists within the rock genre. 

Rock is a form of popular music that emerged in the 1950s, and it is argued that by the end of the 20th-century, rock music was the world's dominant form of popular music. This argument is very important because it shows the impact that rock has had on so many people, making it a popular genre across the world. Rock music originated in the United States in the 1950s and it spread to other English-speaking countries and across Europe in the 1960s. Some popular rock musicians include: Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix. These musicians played a significant role in the development of rock through their different rhythms, melodies, and approaches to songs and performances. 

Rock Musicians

While researching rock music, I came across this article published by the Rolling Stone back in the 1990s. The article states that rock music was seen as a genuine force of cultural and political significance. I felt like this article showed that not only in the 90s but also in the 50s and 60s that rock music was a key player in going against the political and cultural turmoil of the time. I want to know if this is evident in the 21st century with the new artists and songs that are apart of the genre? I answered this question by analyzing artists that influenced the cultural, political, and social order of the 19th century and evaluating if there is a consistency in the influence that rock artist and songs have on today's culture.
In a text, by Barry A. Farber, called Rock 'n' Roll Wisdom, he talked about how the rock lyrics of the 1960s and 1970s addressed the topics of alcohol and drugs, including those of the Beatles, who would emphasize the fun part of getting high. Furthermore, many of the rock songs during that time influenced teens to live the so-called "rock star life". I believe this negative aspect of rock music shows that the lyrics of rock songs aren't the only thing that influences an individual but also the lifestyle of the rock artist's. Young people are looking for lives to copy, no matter who it may be and this was evident during the 1960s and 1970s era of rock music. This also seen in today's society with almost every industry from fashion to music. An example of songs that influenced individuals to do drugs was “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” by the Beatles, which had a profound impact on the acceptance of psychedelics worldwide. For me, when analyzing the rocks songs of today I notice a shift in subject matter and that many songs are about personal struggle and resilience. This being said, I do believe that it comes down to the artist you listen to. 

Green Day

Photo Credit: Google Images

The negative aspects of rock music don’t overshadow the positive influences it has had and still has. During the 19th century, rock music demonstrated how capable it was of inspiring generational and social change. Additionally, rock music also presented black musical forms, and black causes to a wider audience, which drove a threatening wedge into the heart of America's musical mainstream. One of my favorite artists that influenced the rock scene of the 1950s was Bob Dylan, who penned songs about racial suffering and the threat of nuclear apocalypse. This to me showed that rock artists during that time knew that their platform could bring about political and social change. A perfect example of this is "The Times They Are a-Changin," by Bob Dylan. I believe now, in the 21st century with the current political and social climate, rock artist are using their platforms to discuss a change. With songs such as “Bang Bang,” by Green Day, discussing mass shootings across the United States. Based on the examples given, it can be determined that rock music has a great impact and allows for the younger generation to take a stance on current social and political issues. This to me overshadows the negative aspects of the rock genre.

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