History 104: Western Civilization since 1648
Lecture: Social Revolution

Rock 'n' Roll click here for audio

Rock 'n' Roll was the new music of the 1950s, but it achieved maturation during the 1960s and 70s. Deriving from the U.S., with its tradition of jazz and blues, rock 'n' roll had a driving beat, and many rock musicians responded to the social revolution of the time.

book Workbook document: The Beatles: Assorted Lyrics

Beatles early days, playing musicI'm going to use The Beatles as a paradigm for the development of rock during the 60s. In their early songs, like "I Want to Hold Your Hand", the "mop tops" wrote fun but clean lyrics about being in love with girls.

The Beatles: I Want to Hold Your Hand (Lyrics) click here for song: I Want to Hold Your Hand

The films they made ("A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!") also showed naughty but fun-loving young men. This was very much in the tradition of mainstream 1950s rock'n'roll. But by 1965, their music was changing. The tunes and the lyrics reflected alienation and became much more personal.

The Beatles: Eleanor Rigby (Lyrics)

Beatles Yellow Submarine cartoon image of the four, with Ringo giving a peace sign
Beatles later: photo of them with longer hair, sideburns
In 1966, they stopped performing live. They experimented with drugs like LSD, and with Indian mysticism. They visited the Maharishi Yogi in India, their hair grew longer, and their music became psychedelic. In 1968 they created a drug-trip animated feature, Yellow Submarine, a story about a voyage to find Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, a music group which has been frozen by the Blue Meanies to prevent music saving the world from evil.

The message was love and music could save the world, which fit right in with the anti-war protests of the day. Though they broke up in 1970, their last songs together combined music and peace.

Of course, there was more to music than rock. Folk music began in America and travelled to Europe. Bob Dylan was a folk music artist who focuses on social responsibility and the anti-war movement, and noted that the times were changing:

click here for song: Bob DylanBob Dylan excerpt: The Times They Are A'Changing

phot of Baez and Dylan singing togetherJoan Baez and Bob Dylan at civil rights march in 1963

The next song is part of protest history. Early in 2003, I heard it sung at peace marches protesting the U.S. war on Iraq. Today on NPR I heard people in Hong Kong singing it in Chinese to protest Chinese oppression, so obviously some protest songs went beyond the West.

click here for song: Joan BaezJoan Baez: We Shall Overcome

I do not mean to imply that all important protest music was American. But American protest music was innovative because the U.S. did not have the 19th century revolutionary heritage on which to draw for nationalistic songs, and "Yankee Doodle" was not really appropriate. In Paris in 1968, 50,000 people sang the Internationale, which was too radical (literally) for the U.S.

During the 1970s, American songs like "I Am Woman" and "I Will Survive" showed women becoming stronger and more independent. I'm going to skip the disco and guitar rock of the 70's, but I want you to see the reversal of feminism in this popular 80's song from Scottish pop star Sheena Easton, called 9 to 5 in Britain and Morning Train in the U.S.

click here for song: Sheena EastonSheena Easton: 9 to 5

By the 1980s women were either trying to be Superwoman (working outside the home and homemaking too) or, like this one, back at home waiting for her man to come. The "I Am Woman" themes of feminist 1970s music were dying.

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