Essay about Songs of the 1960s
The 1960s was the time of revolution. A lot was happening in the world, but especially in the United States. The 60s was the decade of revolutions in politics, society, civil rights, war, and music. During the 60s, people protested for the civil rights movement, race equality, and women’s rights. Sociologist Daniel Bell stated that the beginning of the 1960s was a time of post-industrial values, with an emerging emphasis on personal pleasure, self-expression, consumerism, materialism, and instant gratification. The American people felt safe and strong for the first time since the end of World War II. They found wealth, and all their need and wants were satisfied. Teens of this era resulted from the babies born after World War II ended and were referred to as the baby boomers. It was this generation that started the revolutionary movement in society. The new rock and roll changed the socio-culture of the youth during this freedom phenomenon felt by everyone. The song, written during the 1960s, talks about the socio-culture, socioeconomics, and political environment during this era of music.
At the beginning of 1960, everyone was very optimistic with the new president-elect John F. Kennedy to change society for the black citizens of the U.S. to fight for civil rights. Unfortunately, on November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
Before that day, rock and roll were still in its happy-go-lucky infancy. After that fateful convertible ride through Dallas, the ’60s became ‘The Sixties’, and a fast-maturing rock and roll would help guide the cultural and political shift waged by a generation that began to question the ways of the world (Rolling Stones, 2019).
It was ideal for teens to rebel and fight for what they believe was wrong with their socioeconomics, socio-culture, and political platforms of their time.
The messages we hear in the songs written in the 1960s are powerful in remembering great leaders, fighting for equality for civil rights, and our soldiers fighting a deadly war. Simon and Garfunkel 1964 wrote a song in response to the assassination of JFK. The lyrics arguable can be meant for different circumstances, but some lines reap the day’s sadness. Words, for example, “When the flash of neon light stabbed my eyes”, suggest the gunshot. The lyrics “and in the naked light, I saw ten thousand people possibly more people without speaking”, alluding to all the people who paid respect to the assassinated president and the loss of words (Troisi et al., 2013).
The civil rights movement was prevalent of this time, and leading the way was Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights movement was a protest by blacks and whites. Many sung by many was ‘We Shall Overcome’, which became the unofficial anthem for the movement. Nina Simone and others wrote and sang songs about the movement. ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free’ by Nina Simone shares how passionate and outspoken she was in her songs (Morrison, 2010).
In the mid-1960s, young people started to hear the new rock and roll, for instance, Joan Baez, Woodie Guthrie, and Bob Dylan. This folk music had stories to tell, much different from the love song of the 50s. Bob Dylan was one musician that voiced his opinions with his music, for instance, ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’. Along with the words of a singer came misinterpretation of his words. Many thought this song was about concerns of nuclear fallout, but the reality was his words presented the rain of lies which was being reported. Another folk band of this time is Creedence Clearwater Revival. They made famous the anti-war song ‘Fortunate Son’, protesting the war and supporting the soldiers.
College students were using this music to send out important messages about who they were, their values, and how they wanted to change things. The messages in rock and roll became part of a counterculture, which included drugs, sexual liberation, and the music revolution. College students protested everything from military drafts to sexuality. The music of groups like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, and The Doors became influential to the young people of the 60s. The emergence of hippies and the counterculture in the mid-1960s was a significant threat to the conservatives of the decade.
We now have the psychedelic music era, a revolutionary sound influenced by drugs like LSD and marijuana. Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Doors, and many more are influential bands of this time. One of my favorite Jefferson Airplane songs is ‘White Rabbit’; some say this song is about an acid trip, and others think this is a song about the Vietnam War. It is a song based on Alice in Wonderland’s book; whether it is a song about drugs and hallucinations or the Vietnam War, it is a great song of its time. The Grateful Dead, one of the most popular bands of the 60s, headed the psychedelic scene in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco, which is still a popular place to visit for the young and old enthusiasts.
Concurrent with the prime years of LSD’s exploration, The Beatles and the other bands of the British Invasion invaded the United States. The Beatles came to the United States at the perfect time of the counterculture of the feminist movement and the psychedelic sounds. Their album ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band’ had many songs that suggested drug use, and one could chill out while hearing and experience a high.
Many of the iconic psychedelic musicians had dabbled in drugs and drug culture, if not immersed themselves fully in it, and had, through drugs, achieved a kind of escape, relief, and freedom that did not seem possible in the 1960s society, whether here in the United States or in Britain, where psychedelic music also thrived (Smith, 2018).
The end of a significant era of sex, drugs, and rock and roll was a three-day concert that 500,000 people attended in Bethel, NY. The time was August 15, 1969, the opening day of the three-day spectacular event that will never be forgotten, Woodstock. Everyone came together as one and listened to thirty-two rock, folk, and blues bands as one happy family. “None of the problems damaged our spirit”, said Lang, “in fact, they drew us closer. We recognized one another for what we were at the core — as brothers and sisters, and we embraced one another in that knowledge” (Lebo, 2019). The musical venue brought a diverse mix of people, old and young, allowing them to escape and share unity and peace. Although the crowd had much to deal with lack of water, food, bathrooms, torrential downpour, and mud, the overall spirit was harmonic. Many great musicians performed during those three days, such as Richie Havens, Joan Baez, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who, Crosby Stills Nash, Young, The Band, and Jimi Hendrix. The concert ended with Jimi Hendrix performing his rendition of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.
The 1960s were pivotal in politics, civil and women’s rights, protesting, war, music, and peace. The death of great leaders JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. allocated songs to share the sorrow of the loss of two great men. The baby boomers of this era made their voices be heeded through protesting and music. The words sung in songs shared the revolutionary movement during this time. The 60s was a time of tremendous music: folk rock, psychedelic rock, rock and roll, and the British Invasion all had stories to tell of this pivotal time in history. At the end of the 1960s, 500,000 people came together to celebrate love, peace, sex, and rock and roll with a music festival, Woodstock, will be remembered for a long time. Generations to come will be listening to these revolutionary songs and enjoyed.
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