external image 20518.20514.insideheader.jpg

Music's Influence in the 1960'S

In a time where the nation had been struck by the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, and the assassinations of both President John F. Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.; and times were centered around American politics, and racial climate, the baby boomer generation turned to music. This was the era where popular music was known for playing a role of unprecedented centrality and importance in defining the character of the 1960's. Television was widely being used to market music for the first time and the technology used to record music had also greatly improved. These factors all created a mass music culture in America. With the emergence of folk music and songs of protest, the rise of the British Invasion, and the psychedelic music scene, the character of popular music was new and different than anything the public had seen or heard. Amazingly, fifty years years later the influence of this music can still be heard.

The Early 60's Music
Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin

The early 1960's era is best described as a "lackluster period- a time of relative stasis between the excitement of the early rock'n'roll years and the coming of the Beatles to America in 1964." This period seemed to have many different waves of music including things like Jive, Motown, Soul, and the infamous Elvis Presley. These types of music brought about a new sense of life into the people of America. It struck a cord with dancing and began the forever intensifying dedication of obsessive fans to heart throb musicians.
  • Jive Music- Jive music can be defined simply by one dance move. The Twist. This is normally seen as a slight swivel of the hips which was "essentially an individual,non contact dance" but was usually done "by a boy-and-girl couple facing one another." Though this was not in the beginning a dance move, it actually started as a song originally written in 1959 by Hank Ballard and The Midnighters long before the song became a record hit on the charts. It was featured on the B side of one of their single records and didn't ever create that much talk. In 1960 however the song took a turn for the better when covered by an 18 year old artist by the name of Chubby Checker. With easy access to the hit teen show Band Stand the indie label Parkway which had Checkers singed to them made the song and instant hit. "Adults of all ages and classes and races were doing the twist, along with teenagers." It was not long before this number one hit began influencing several more dancing songs. Among these being "Let's Twist Again", "Slow Twistin", "Mashed Potato Time", "Do the Bird", "Mickey's Monkey", and the ever so famous "The Loco-Motion". What started with just one song on the back of a album became a new generation of music, one that involved dance and influenced the turning of a era, and the evolution of entertainment.
  • Motown and Soul Music- Motown may be one of the most talked about, and controversial trends of the 1960's. In a time where race was still a big matter, and with the help of a very courageous man by the name of Berry Gordy, artist such as Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Supremes, and Aretha Franklin grew into acceptance of the American people. In the early 1960's Berry Gordy created a "songwriting/producing/marketing organization" called Motown which was run by African American control but was in no way directed only to a black audience. There were many aspects that allowed for Gordy to be successful but something very interesting about him was that he made sure his artist could perform on stage and not just record in a studio. The record company specialized in blues and gospel on both the heavy side (Martha Reeves) and light (Smokey Robinson). One of the hit groups singed with Motown Records was The Supremes, a girl group originally made up of Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Betty McGlown. With hit songs like "You Can't Hurry Love" these women were a icon for empowerment and sophistication and their style was one to grow, expand, and last a life time. But among all of these wonderful artist one that must always be heald to high regards is none other than Aretha Franklin. Her songs today still suppress love in our hearts, but her journey was something of less enthusiasm. In the beginning of her corer "she struggled with material like 'Rock-A-Bye Your Baby' and 'Try A Little Tenderness' " but caught her break when meeting the Vice President of Atlantic Records Jerry Wexler. He helped "set her up with Atlantic's regular soul sidemen and songwriters" leading her to super-star status in no time. Over the decades as trends have come and gone it is artist like Aretha Franklin that have been able to withstand the threshold and are still looked at as great, legendary singers.
  • Elvis Presley- A man who's name seems to forever be remembered, but a man who's story is one that is even more remembered. For he was a sweet tragedy, and one that will forever live on. Elvis "was the spirit of youth and excitement, both frightening and oddly comforting." He was born in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1935 to a rather poor family from the projects. It was here that Elvis was said to learn his ways of not discriminating against races. And it was that aspect of him which helped him gain the respect he did. Elvis "made contributions that helped America through a midlife crisis" by leading "his audiences towards the original black sources of his music" and also by opening "the mass audience for black performers" earlier denied. But this side of Elvis Presley was usually overshadowed by a number of other things in his lifetime, and now his death. Famous people such as Buddy Holly have been said to say things like "without Elvis Presley, none of us could have made it" along with Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones all stating that they did what they did because of Elvis. At his concerts he was usually surrounded by crowds that were "overwhelming female and young" immediately becoming a heart throb around the nation. Its said that "even Hank Williams at the zenith of his fame didn't arouse the kind of teen age thing that Elvis did." But what all started in 1953 from a visit to a Memphis Recording Service during a lunch break ended just a suddenly. "Elvis achieved the material riches of the American dream, but what he earned was suffocating fame". The world was shocked when the news broke that Elvis had died, and not only died but killed himself with drugs. The shattering image of him laying over his tolite with The Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus opened could scar someone for good. It was only then that people began to realize just how Elvis' life really was, "he achieved succedd in all of the usual definitions, yet still failed to find happiness." But not even his tragic ending could possibly overshadow the things he had accomplished, and in some ways it could be looked at that "death was a good career move. He continues to earn money" and "new generations come to him" as the years move on.

The British Invasion (1963-1967)
The Beatles 1964

The term "The British Invasion" refers to a period of several years in which there was a large influx of British bands and musicians into American popular culture. It can be divided into two waves. The type of music played by these groups in the first wave was actually influenced by the American artists readily available and quite popular in post war England such as Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. This new type of music was called "Skiffle" and was like rock 'n roll but more stipped down, largely acoustic, and had heavy overtones that were reminiscent of country western music. Later in the second wave, rhythm and blues would also heavily influenced similar to the music of Muddy Waters, in bands like The Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, and The Kinks.
  • Early Beatles and Beatlemania- The members of the Beatles were Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison. Often called "The Fab Four" they were the first band of their kind to make it in American popular music. Prehaps one of the most unique and most important features of The Beatles is the fact that they wrote almost all their own music. During this time that was not a usual occurance. This gave them a great deal more creative liberty and fluidity between various styles. This allowed them to do more with their music and avoid being pigeon holed as any particular type of band. Futhermore it gave them leaverage with their record label so that they could determine what songs would be on an album. This led to The Beatles' tracks on each album flowing together and telling a story. They were one of the first bands to do this and it would influence many bands in the future. The songwriting style of the Beatles is very unique and best represents the popular music of this period. The rhyming scheme was simple and shied away from anything overly complicated, staying true to their inspiration, the skiffle style. The did use a new style of conjunct melody which served to create a memorable hook. Their use of an upbeat tempo, harmony, and a quick rhythm , all contributed to the popularity of this early style. They would occasionally use strings or orchestral instruments instead of a drum kit on their ballads such as, "Yesterday". This was a new sort of take on a pop balled which contributed to their distinction and their popularity. Overall, they kept the songs clean, fairly short, and overtly positive and upbeat. They usually used relationships and young women as their subjects which played well into their target demographic, teenage girls. They would later explore other new and different sounds including rock n' roll, experimental, and Indian inspired psychedelic music. The work of The Beatles broke through the doorway to American music for foreign artists, allowing many bands to follow in their footsteps. The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and The Dave Clark Five, all borrowed heavily from The Beatles' style of music. However, almost any British Invasion era group owes a great deal of credit to The Beatles, for if they had not come first, it is unlikely that any other band would have been successful after.
The Beatles were one of the most marketed and widely successful groups in American popular music history. As one American fan wrote in a letter to the group,"Dear Ones: Yesterday to show my loyalty, I bought a Beatle wig, a Beatle Sweatshirt, and for Beatle dolls. I spent $24.79 . I adore you. Take my heart. It is all I have left." (1964). This could be seen most clearly when so called "Beatlemania" broke out and swept through a generation of young people, mainly girls, early in the Beatles' career. Similar to the hysteria that surrounded a young Elvis Presley in his heyday, hoards of young, mostly teenage girls would scream, swoon, and occasionally riot, just to catch a glimpse of the mop topped quartet. As John Muncie outlines in The Beatles, Popular Music and Society, " An all pervasive obsession with every detail of The Beatles' lives took on the characteristics of a social movement- and notably was one that was led and orchestrated by girls and young women . This has been seen as the Beatles most significant feature . It gave young white women, in particular, a collective identity, a space in which to lose control and to assert their own sexuality. 'To abandon control, to scream, faint and dash about in mobs,- was in form, if not in conscious intent, to protest the sexual repressiveness , the rigid double standard of female teen culture. It was the first and most dramatic uprising of women's sexual revolution'" The Beatles influence expanded beyond their music alone from the way they dressed, in skinny black suits with thin black ties, to the way they did their hair in a long mop top. Both of these styles became extremely popular during this period. The films made by the Beatles most notably, "A Hard Day's Night" also served to increase their popularity and influence within the public. Although their primary audience was middle class, white, teenage girls, the music of The Beatles seemed to transcend class, age, and race at the height of their popularity. This is one reason why their music is still widely popular today. .
  • The Rolling Stones- While similar to The Beatles in some ways, for instance, the writing of their own music, The Rolling Stones created a sound and a style all their own. They borrowed heavily from blues and soul music to create a dark and gritty sound that was a contrast to the lighthearted tones The Beatles often employed. They also used tight and catchy guitar hooks that made their songs instantly recognizable. This can be heard in the song, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". While they were often labeled as the bad boys of The British Invasion, for their tough look which was a purposeful style. The group decided to be sure and stand out from other bands not only with the way that they sound but also in the way they dressed. This was made complete with very long hair, leather jackets, and an affinity for tight pants. This manner of dress would soon become very popular and would be mimicked by countless young men. The Rolling Stones captivated a young audience made up of both men and women and are known as one of the first true Rock n' Roll bands. While many other bands sang happy go lucky sorts of songs that were adult friendly, this group sang jarring, hard tunes that were meant to be played loud and were sexually charged. This sort of music was certainly not family friendly and having a sort of forbidden sound and persona drove their popularity. This lead to The Rolling Stones becoming a popular outlet for rebelion within the youth culture. The lead singer, Mic Jagger was known for on stage antics such as his signature strut and jumping around on stage. All this drove the audiences crazy and added to their ever growing wild child sort of appeal. If it had not been for The Rolling Stones paving the way, other bands such as Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and The Ramones might have been less sucessful.

Folk Music of the 60's
Greenbrair Boys
Greenbrair Boys

Folk music was one of a kind, making it a perfect fit for the 1960's. The acoustic sound was easily comparable to rock'n'roll music in this decade, which seemed to frustrate the artist. They were even said to "turn up their nose" at many rock'n'roll bands for overshadowing their performances and stealing spotlight. But as music was making a new break and people were beginning to accept almost anything it seemed that this southerly sound fit right in. It did not hit the big times as easily as some of the others in the 1960's but it did eventually get the attention and social recognition it deserved. The road began on a bumpy path while most artist stuck to folk festivals around the nation and it was not untill larger names such as Bob Dylan helped take it to the big times and made history that is still incredibly well known today. In ways folk music got its shine a little too late, now being looked at as much if not more than before, but this was no genre to forget about. They had their fair share of artistic successes and eventually marked its place in society.
  • Folk Festivals- Prestegious Universities such as "Swarthmore, Yale, Michigan State, Berkley, to mention but a few, hold yearly meets featuring big-named performers." This showed just how seriously people were beginning to take folk music in this new decade. Yearly festivals were being held allowing folk artist to perform and be judged on their abilities. At the 1960's Galax Festival people such as Fiddler J. E. Mainer of Mainer's Mountains, Banjoist George Stoneman and George Pegram, Clarence "Tom" Ashley, Greenbrair Boys, Arthel "Doc" Watson, Julian "Winnie" Winston, Harry and Jeannie West, Billy Keith, Jim Rooney, and Bayard Ray all went home with winning trophies for diffrent devisions of the contest. Among other prestigious folk festivals was "Bascom Lamar Lunsfords Mountain Dana and Folk Festival" and "The Folk Song Club of the City College of New York." Both of these helped in making the music of its performers more well known and better represented. Though this music was not always captivating to the younger audience at the time of its origination Robert Shelton, a New York Times reporter, concluded: "Mr. Yellin's (Bob Yellin from Greenbriar Boys) experiences at the festival are symbolic of how the cultural exchanges between country and city currently thronging in American folk music reap human and musical rewards." It was evident that even this genre of music was in ways, not before though of, reaching out to the public. And as time went on and the decade of the 1960's unfolded "Northern folk musicians would continue to venture South, while Northern folk festivals would expand their welcome of Southern musicians, black and white." Much as Elvis Presley had helped in the fight to end segregation, folk music had its own unique way of transforming the times. Where the songs were written and performed by both blacks and whites interchangeably, the followers began to accept, if they did not already, that the new coming world was one where people were going to be treated equally.
  • Bob Dylan- known as the man who "virtually single-handedly, dragged urban folk music" born Robert Zimmerman, Bob Dylan helped shape folk music when it seemed to be unshapely. He was well equipped when it came to writing songs and very distinctive by his performance style, which in many ways people believed to be too aggressive causing many of his songs to be recorded by other, more calm, artist. Dylan spent his time writing songs that showed his "gift of irony" which is "exemplified memorably in the lyrics of Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." Thought most of his songs were of his own writings he was very good at sticking to folk traditions, "many of his original compositions were modeled, implicitly or explicitly, on the musical and poetic content of preexisting folk material." In 1965 Dylan moved from being a well known writer to more of a popular sensation, and it was in this jump that he began to show the world a little more about folk music. Where artist he had based his music off of had never been recognized to their full extent they were now getting looked at a little closer. But no matter how big Dylan got he never "established himself as primarily a singles artist" and was instead known as "the rock musician whose career was sustained essentially by albums." Regardless he was still a very inciting and well known man who put out a large variety of albums and should not have one regret for doing so. He may never be known as an all around successful artist but he will forever be someone who helped shape the 1960's music scene more than most. And in a time where people needed someone to look to, and someone to comfort them, weather it was the real meaning of his lyrics or not, it was believed that Bob Dylan was right there by your side.

Psychedelic Rock (1965-1969)

Jefferson Airplane Album Cover

Psychedelic rock, sometimes referred to as Acid rock, is yet another mechanism by which the youth of the generation used to reject the traditional values of their parents and of the larger American society During the Psychedelic era the youth of America were living in a time of great flux and turmoil. The Vietnam War had begun while racial tension and struggles for equality permeated daily life. The Baby Boomer generation began to look for a way to make sense of all the confusion, to find meaning and connection, and a way to express themselves. Because of these motivations many youth would turn to drugs. Large quantities of acid, LSD, and marajuana were consumed during this time along with other drugs. There was also the rise of so called "Hippies" who premoted free love, a term that meant that sex should not be limited to a single partner. Hippies also promoted an atmosphere of communal living. Without the combination of confusion, turmoil, free love, social revolution, and free expression, Psychedelic music would not have happened. These forces created a perfect storm of creativity and expression.Psychedelia is marked by experimental tones and a sense fluidity and movement with long guitar solos filled with distortion. There are also hints of African, Asian and Indian styles of music.
  • Jefferson Airplane- Although their roots were in folk music, Jefferson Airplane was one of the most popular groups of the psychedelic music era. They also have the distinction of being one of the first rock groups to have a female lead singer. Rising out of the San Francisco scene, they later transitioned into "louder harder- edged style with a greater emphasis on open forms, instrumental improvisation, and visionary lyrics". The band began in 1965 and initially played small underground clubs until they gained popularity with the song "Somebody To Love" and were signed to the famous RCA record label. "Somebody To Love" was the poster child for songs of this era because it "exemplifies the acid rock approach, including a dense musical texture with plenty of volume and lots of electronic distortion" along with rousing yet hard vocals by lead singer, Grace Slick. The lyrics of the song also demonstrate the feelings of the younger generation on two levels. The lyrics of the chorus, "Don't you want somebody to love?/ Don't you need somebody to love?/ Wouldn't you love somebody to love?/ You better find somebody to love/" represents the idea of free love that was popular during this time on one level while on a deeper level, it represents a need for connection and meaning felt throughout the generation.

  • Jimi Hendrix- Often called "the original guitar hero" Jimi Hendrix and his band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience changed the face of American popular music, literally. The image of Jimi Hendrix, was posted on the walls of young people everywhere and for the first time, America's rock hero was African American. Hendrix revolutionized the music made with electric guitars and became one of the biggest artists of the Psychedelic period until his tragic death in 1970. He began playing guitar in blues bands but eventually made the switch to psychedelic rock, although the influence of the blues can still be heard in the music of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The success of Jimi Hendrix is largely due to his ability to manipulate the sound of his guitar to create songs unlike any ever heard before in that time. He would use "creative employment of feedback, distortion, and sound manipulating devices like the wah-wah pedal and fuzz box coupled with his fondness for agressive dissonance and incredibly loud volume" to create his distinct, signature sound . Hendrix was also known for outrageous on stage antics during his live shows including "playing the guitar with his teeth, playing the guitar behind his back, stroking its neck on the microphone stand, pretending to make love to it, and setting it on fire and praying to it" at the Monterey Pop Music Festival. Such antics drove crowds crazy and only contributed to the legend and mystique that surrounded these live shows. He also used the more sophisticated technology in sound recording to create speacial effects on his studio albums. Many guitar artists of today cite Hendrix as an influence . Furthermore the merchandise of Jimi Hendrix including not only albums and posters but also t-shirts, hoodies and other memorabilia continue to be sold today throughout the United States. `


Which Psychedelic Rock Icon Do You Prefer?

    1. The Doors 38%
    2. Jimi Hendrix 50%
    3. Jefferson Airplane 0%
    4. The Who 13%

Which British Invasion Era Group Do You Prefer?

    1. The Beatles 67%
    2. The Kinks 22%
    3. The Rolling Stones 11%
    4. Manfred Mann 0%

Which Early 60's Artist Do You Prefer?

    1. Elvis 36%
    2. Mo Town 24%
    3. The Ronnettes 20%
    4. Aretha Franklin 20%

Which Folk Group Do You Prefer?

    1. The Byrds 22%
    2. Pete Seeger 20%
    3. Buffalo Springfield 20%
    4. Crosby, Stills, and Nash 36%

Out Of Those Favored Above, Which Is Your Favorite 60's Artist?

    1. Jimi Hendrix 31%
    2. The Beatles 35%
    3. Elvis 26%
    4. Crosby, Stills, and Nash 8%

Music Videos:

Elvis Presley I Can't Help Falling In Love

The Beatles' First American Concert (1964) Washington D.C.

Mainer Mountaineers I Once Loved A Young Boy

Jimi Hendrix Performing the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock (1969)

  1. Starr, Larry. Waterman, Christopher. American Popular Music From Minstrelsy To MTV. New York. Oxford, 2003
  2. Cohen, Ronald D. A History of Folk Music Festivals in the United States. Maryland. Lanham, 2008
  3. Inglis, Ian. The Beatles, Popular Music and Society. New York. St. Martin's Press, 2000
  4. Cook, Nicholas. Pople Anthony. The Cambridge History of Twentieth - Century Music. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 2004
  5. Title Picture from: cdn.pitchfork.com
  6. Aretha Franklin picture from: http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/252/12028673.jpg
  7. The Beatles picture from: http://renaissanceronin.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/the-beatles.jpg
  8. Greenbriar Boys picture from: http://userserve-ak.last.fm/serve/252/7019395.jpg
  9. Jefferson Airplane Cover picture from: http://www.musicland-berlin.de/cover/60/13661.jpg