Sunday, August 15, 2010


The was a time in the past, when we went to the movies and listened to music to escape into a better time in our lives. Back in the 1960's when I was just escaping puberty, we still had the All-American institution, the Drive-In. In those days, the Beach Boys & the boys from Liverpool dominated the airwaves. Their music was about cars, girls, the beach, and fun. Our movies consisted of screens full of Frankie and Annette, Biker Flicks from Roger Corman, and those sickening Hal Wallis monstrosities, starring Elvis Presley, which to me always took him to a new low. He was always the lone wolf coming into town, the girls fell in love with him, he kicked every ones ass, and ended the movie singing and dancing into the sunset. Ridiculous, right?
Well, the point was, it was supposed to be entertainment. And it was. It was all a part of Americana. While compared to todays hi-powered action movies with 3d animations and unbelievable special effects, they were very simple, they were innocent, and fun. And they had lots of great music. Elvis always got the girl, Frankie Always got Annette, and everyone went home happy in their 1957 Chevy, happily listening to "Little Deuce Coupe". This would be 1964,and Rockn'Roll was beginning to change, as it was becoming ever interwoven into the fabric of the American youth. In America, the different cultures produced a wide variety of music for its youth. In the inner cities, the radio was permeated with all kinds of different sounds. Detroit gave us Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, and The Supremes. Chicago gave us Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions, Major Lance, Jan Bradley, Jerry Butler. Los Angeles gave us Jan & Dean, The Beach Boys,& Phil Spector & his Wall of sound with The Ronettes, The Crystals, and The Righteous Bros. And of course, New York, gave us the Brill Building, Donny Kirschners Dream Machine, that pumped out such talents as Carol King, Ellie Greenwich, Neil Sedaka, Neal Diamond, Jeff Barry, (oh, that list goes on forever).
And we are still talking 1964.
But, in the middle of this extravaganza, and undercurrent was taking place. In the summer of 1964, at the height of Beatlemania, A young, Jewish kid out of Hibbing , Minnesota, (of all places) appeared on the scene,with a complete blowout of a song, which, for the first time, addressed the issues of what was going on in the world outside of the drive-in. That song was "Like a Rolling Stone", and it was like nothing the average American teenager had ever heard. First of all, the song was over 4 minutes long. (The allotted time back then was 2:30 max for a 45). Now, Bob Dylan had been around for a few years, playing the Folk Scene, and folk music had been played on the radio, but this was electric. It MADE you stand up and take notice.

All of a sudden, the youth , who had grown up cookie cutter to "Leave it to Beaver", "Ozzie and Harriet", and "Father knows Best", realized that there was a world out there, and things were happening. Things like VietNam.
One of the most prolific songs of that time was "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", by the Kingston Trio. To this day, that song sends chills down my spine. For the first time, American youth, both Black and White were taking notice of the issues at hand, such as the war and the Civil Rights Movement. The Folk Rock Movement had been born, from Greenwich Village, with groups like the Lovin Spoonful, to out on the West Coast with the Mamas and Papas (courtesy of Sloan & Barry). By 1966, everyone had gotten into the act, including the Dynamic Duo of the surf crowd, Jan & Dean with the album "Folk & Roll". One of the most powerful songs of that decade was was Barry McGuires "Eve of Destruction". (Ironically, that is an all-too fitting song for todays situation as well.)
Down in Nashville, the Country crowd was getting involved as well. Johnny Cash spent weeks in the Village integrating with the youth, he had a remarkable knack for understanding their frustrations and needs. In 1968, he released a now-forgotten gem of a song called "What is Truth", which focused on the miscommunication of society. Henson Cargill, another C&W singer entered the charts with "Skip a Rope", with strong connotations on Race relations. It was previously uncharted territory for this particular genre.
By 1969, music integration was in full swing.  Just listen to The Doors "The Unknown Soldier". Traces could be heard at Woodstock, with Richie Havens, and Country Joe McDonald with the "Viet Nam Rag". Even Jimi Hendrix did a version of "Like A Rolling Stone", as only Jimi Could do. It was culminating in a big way.
By the 1970's, most of the heroes were gone. Jimi, Janis, and Jim Morrison had all gone on to eternity, Mama Cass would follow in a few years. Johnson was gone, as well as Bobby Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King. Music began to turn to a lighter note with social influence no longer being of prime importance. In the 1970's, we saw the emergence of Country Rock, with the Eagles and Poco. Southern Rock was also beginning to take root with the Great Allman Brothers, (although, the granddaddys of Southern Rock were always considered Lynyrd Skynyrd, who everyone related to Georgia, when they, were, in fact, from Jacksonville, Florida. The 1970's was also the advent of Disco, the most meaningless, useless, genre ever conceived. That is strictly my opinion, because good, bad, or indifferent, it had its place in Music Culture.
In Part Two, we will continue our journey as to how music has integrated into more than entertainment, it has become a voice for the people.............See you then

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