Both of these cultural phenomenons created a vacuum in the 50’s style of conformity, thus inevitably being labelled subversive. The 1960’s also enabled folk to be recognised in musical mainstream America. The acceptance of this sometimes sparse and almost always politically potent music was a complete turn around from the previous decade’s sound, style and content. 50’s America labelled folk as ”subversive. ” it was the music of the workers rights, labour unions, and the working class. Folk music has a remarkable adaptability that can be used to educate the listener about various causes.
American folk of the 60’s championed the causes of the left, thus promoting change, justice and equality. Many of the days popular folk artists, were black listed, because of their so-called threat to national security. As folk songs were being written and song in relevance to the contemporary social problems of the period in time, the tradition was being changed, the subject matter was being more immediate. 1These songs would put the establishment on trial, and articulate the feelings of millions.
Many of the people who helped elevate folk in the 60’s have become names of immense prominence in music history. Bob Dylan (born Robert Zimmerman) became the single most important figure that embodied the 60’s folk music. His fans did not simply listen to him; they depended on him and his lyrics. 2He is probably thought upon as one of the most prolific writers in history. His ability to successfully articulate the feelings of a generation, which had elevated his status to that of a mystical one, an honest man in an age of dishonesty.
3Dylan would create immense controversies within the music world, and in a broader sense that of the counter culture. When he started to ”plug-in” or electric rock music. By 1965, Dylan’s music resembled the loud rock and roll that was being produced at the time. This may have been because of traditional folk’s decline, and the need for commercial exceptance. This transition for Dylan proved costly as through out contemporary music history he was confronted with the label of ”sell out”, as he deviated and abandoned the purist form of folk, which undoubtedly created his prolific career.
But perhaps in the larger unnoticeable sense this could have been a part on Dylan’s behalf for the continuation of folk as a music and social force. With his sometimes-psychedelic sound, many more people were in tune to his sound and messages. This is common theme, the ”selling out” complex. Often it is caused by growing pains of a popular artist from one form of music to a more progressive and ”less pure” form. So it can be argued that for folk musical, Dylan’s transition may have been the best thing that could have happened, while musically altering his style, lyrically, he was as fierce as
ever. [Miller 219] The straight form of folk required thought; it drew the listener into the subject matter and created a desire to form an opinion. It can also be described as a music that is quite beautiful. But its shortcomings are in the fact that it didn’t do much for a culture looking for some disposable fun. Which is where guitar driven electric rock provided a respite from thoughts of the world’s ills. It was music that allowed, promoted and produced dancing. It was seen as a different sort of energy and it appealed to the young to move.
Protests in the 60’s became an ever growing part of culture, inadvertently giving rise to new forms of entertainment that were rooted in rebellion that became increasingly popular, and performers like Dylan started to use music as a form of protest. The coffee house culture was born, with white students beginning to interact with black students, new values were created, and prejudices disassembled. These catastrophic changes in social attitudes created a generation gap that managed allow more social freedom then ever before.
Many started questioning themselves, parents, and society as a whole. In essence a value revolution created a backlash against the 50’s, and a counter culture was emerging in the midst of changing values. Deep questions began to form in American society and institutions of control began to be questioned. There was a feeling that there was something radically wrong with the country. Vietnam was beginning to divide the nation, combined with the civil rights struggle, which pushed the counter culture revolution in to effect.
Folk and the messages it conveyed were reflective of society ills and as a voice it alienated many within the country and in a smaller scale the counter culture. The 60’s were seen as an emotionally draining time. There were very real problems, and folk reminded its listeners of everyday evils could only move so far forward. This inevitably led to the need for an infusion of disposable culture that can be seen as the go ahead for change and experimentation in society, especially in regard to popular music and youth culture.
Today rock is many things to many people, making a standard definition impossible. The labels placed on today’s music are nothing more then a marketing tool. A means of targeting a certain demographic category, to sell products and give false impressions of group identity. Nevertheless rock still stands high on a legacy of being the force behind the musical revolution and that it is still around. Rock as a force, an expression, and a cultural mirror has come light years since its outlaw status just a few decades ago.
While viewing the overall history and progression of rock from one form to another becomes clearer. It is a progression that stems from the need to re-invent oneself, a need present in all of us, it is a music of escape, and motivation, of political messages, and class oppression. 1 Haskins. J. (1988), the 60’s reader, New York: Viking kestrel, P. 89 2 Miller. J. (1980), the rolling stone illustrated history of rock and roll, New York, P. 219 3 Miller. J. (1980), the rolling stone illustrated history of rock and roll, New York, P. 219?