The Birth of Rock and Roll

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The world in general and the United States in particular have faced a lot of turbulent times. The advantage of history is that it can always separate the worthy transformations from the worthless ones. And there will be few who would not agree that the variety of social movements which started in 1960’s did not have an impact on the further life of humanity. The glorious epoch when rock and roll was born deserves its right to be called a cultural quantum leap, for its value cannot be underestimated. The effects of those years are still palpable nowadays.

The fertile ground of eventful international politics bred a predictable reaction of the ever active strata of society. It was no surprise that it was youth who stood in the avant-garde of protests against the war in Vietnam, and it is a well-known fact that college campuses were the hotbeds of discontent. Time showed America became a serious trend-setter in terms of political consciousness of the youth and after that, of course, as a country where the hippie movement with all its fashion and ideological components. More importantly, the young Americans showed what it meant to have an active civil position and that they have a right to express their discontent with the policy of the government. Probably, it did not always have the right manifestation, but it surely was sincere. In this regards, a lot of people whose youth caught 1960’s consider these years to be the best times in their life.

Since 1960’s pacifism came into fashion and is now supported by young men who refuse to take part in serving in the army, as they see it as a violent deal. And as well as during Vietnam war protests, there are convinced patriots who strongly disapprove such an approach, so pacifism remains a kind of social protest. However, one can speak of the opposite effect: the protests made some of those who supported military actions in Vietnam change their views. The Iraq campaign forty years later caused a similar indignation in the masses. The experience of 1960’s liberated the residents of the United States and made them feel as they matter and can resist violent endeavors of government.

Logically, if the revolution started among the young, there was a certain distrust hosted towards the older generation. The notorious “never-trust-anyone-over-30” doctrine appeared in 60’s and conveyed a strong anti-establishment message, as it was the previous generation which let a war after war happen and brought the humanity to such a deplorable condition. Started in university campuses as a campaign for freedom of speech, the demands of the students reached beyond the scopes of academic freedoms. By protesting in this way youth tried to make it clear that they are mature and independent enough to have and maintain their own ideas about many aspects of life. And the world heard them. After the gained liberties only the appealing slogan is left as a symbol of rebellious adolescents.  

Digressing from serious political topics, the protest of the 60’s evolved into other shapes. A famous combination “sex, drugs and rock and roll” appeared during this period and there is, probably, no better way to briefly describe the epoch. The spirit of liberation floated everywhere. 1960’s were the times most of people took drugs for the first time. It was caused by the urge to try something new, to broaden the limits of the known and, probably, by some kind of flock effect. Baby boom was a positive period, while there was another boom which cannot be asserted in this way, the boom of drug culture. Drugs and art were so tightly connected that they are now perceived almost as a single concept. They fed the imagination of musicians and artists more substantially than anything else. Of course, narcotic substances are always what they are, but there is a difference between the relaxing effect of marijuana and psychedelic hallucinations after taking LSD. A lot did not have a chance to soberly make conclusions about drug use (due to untimely deaths), but the other found the strength to conquer the harmful habit and regret even taking light drugs. Although, it would be better if afterwards America did not find itself a country full of addicts. On the other hand, when else to experiment when not in youth? A great many, however, continue to take drugs as a tribute to those times with a desire to at least get closer to the atmosphere that ruled then.

Another aspect of counterculture of the rock and roll era was the “free love” movement. Wittily connecting the message of anti-war propaganda with the new understanding of relations between men and women, the hippies came up with a slogan “make love, not war”. Two preceding decades on the baby boom were the best proof to it. The concept of free love appeared as a reaction to the general liberation of society. Basically, it raised nothing but debates. It is not that such a form of relations did not exist before, it just was not acknowledged. 1960’s managed to attach a touch of revolutionary attitude to it. Free love was a manifestation of the epoch. Nowadays sociologists deal with connections between free love and feminism and whether the latter was an enhancement or a paradox of the former.

Finally, the thing that glued everything together was, of course, music. It was impossible to stay out of omnipresent listening and worshiping. The influence of rock and roll remains powerful within the cultural domain. Forrest Gump, Almost Famous, Cadillac Records and hundreds of other films and TV series refer to this epoch and tell about actual people who lived at those times and shaped the consciousness of the masses with their art. A lot of modern musicians confess that they are inspired and delighted by their colleagues who were on the tops of the charts with their songs, sold their albums in millions and gathered not less people at their live performances in 60’s. A number of other genres were formed on the basis of rock and roll. One can assert with conviction that the birth of rock and roll was one of the most prominent and crucial events in music history. The peculiarity of this genre lies in the fact that apart from purely artistic point of view it conveys a rather strong and definite social message: it is music of freedom, made by liberated people and for liberated people. Rock and roll was a defiance dictated and fed by historical circumstances and it managed to reflect the feelings and ideas of the majority of youth so precisely that it stayed alive and evolved despite of negative reaction of the older generation. Regarding music industry, 1960’s were the times of tremendous commercial success and unlimited creative possibilities, which is why nowadays they are perceived as legendary and as an ideal to orient to.

Mid-60’s, the years when rock and roll was born, became a prominent page of American history. The music of the period reflected the moods of society; the historical events shaped the way of thinking. Rock and roll was a hallmark of another way of perceiving things, and this call for protest invaded the United States. Anti-war movement and other self-expressions of the early baby boomers were inherent components of that period, and most of them retained a lasting effect until nowadays. Socially and culturally, it is hard to imagine America without these years of changes.

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