Do you say you want a revolution? Look no further than the 1960s. The decade of political protest, sexual liberation, psychedelic drugs, eyebrow-raising fashions and sweet, sweet music.
“The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”
— John Lennon
The ’60s saw Rock 'n' roll spread from the US signalling the beginning of the adolescent rebellion. Music since has always had a rebellious undertone. On February 3, 1959, known as "The Day the Music Died," three musicians—Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J P "The Big Bopper" Richardson—died in a plane crash, bringing an end to the decade known as the 1950s.
For the youth of the 1960s, this day was so poignantly remembered that it represented the start of an entirely new era. Young musicians were returning to the roots of rock 'n' roll, and this inspired them to create a new wave of folk and pure R&B revivals—styles appropriate for a decade of political unrest.
The campaign was led by the singer Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" (1962) became an anthem for civil rights. The power of music to affect societal change has grown. The sexual revolution and anti-war marches have the 1960s protest songs and psychedelia as their soundtracks.
Additionally, Bob Dylan made a significant contribution to music history. The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, his second album, established Dylan as a significant musician in 1963. The workmanship of the record, not only his songwriting, shocked the music business.
A lot of albums used to start with the second or third single, followed by a ballad, and side two would start with the first single, followed by a run of cover songs. This was because album structure had previously been an afterthought, and the results had been fairly repetitive.
By elevating the album format to the level of an independent creative form, Dylan's record breached this rule. George Harrison stated of the album, "We simply played it, just wore it out."
African-American musicians living in New Orleans continued to develop the R&B sound when many white musicians went backwards. Funk's popularity started to rise. James Brown was in the vanguard, releasing successes like "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" in 1965. Funk would later influence disco and be affected by psychedelia, giving rise to bands like Funkadelic and Parliament.
On the other side of the globe Beatles had started developing their musical style in Britain by fusing simple melodies with intricate rhythms that were influenced by R&B. Their 1963 single "From Me to You" launched an uninterrupted string of UK number-one singles that ruled the decade and continued into 1967.
The group's primary lyricists were Paul McCartney and John Lennon. They wrote "Please Please Me" and "Hey Jude," among other songs. Around the time of The White Album (1968), George Harrison's compositional prowess truly began to show, probably reaching its zenith with "Something" (1969). Although The Beatles stopped touring in 1969, their legacy endures to this day.
The Beatles dominated the charts and went on to enjoy international success, but R&B was also influencing the mods, a new subculture in Britain. The mods embraced jazz and soul, listened to British bands like The Kinks and The Rolling Stones, and formed groups like The Who and Small Faces.
Meanwhile, The Velvet Underground, the anti-Beatles, was born in the US. Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and others produced music that drew inspiration from modernist composers (Cornelius Cardew), literature (Venus in Furs), pop music, and poetry, making them possibly the first art band.
The Velvet Underground sang about the seedy side of New York sub-culture in songs like "Heroin" and "Venus in Furs" while The Beatles were singing "Lucy in the Sky With
Diamonds" and "When I'm Sixty-Four" (Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967).
The outcome was occasionally disconcerting but always intriguing. Even if it was problematic, their relationship with Andy Warhol boosted their fame and helped them surpass The Beatles as arguably the most influential band to ever exist.
Music was also influenced by drugs. Psychedelia was influenced by psychedelics and depressants like marijuana and LSD. This music was distinguished by its hazy, occasionally carefree, and often chaotic quality. It was amplified using modern sound effects and guitar pedal technology.
The songs' lyrics usually focussed on the themes of love, unity, freedom, sexual liberty, and literature, and occasionally they were also thought to have been senseless. Even though the styles of bands like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, The Soft Parade, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, and Captain Beefheart varied, all had one thing in common which was induced by the psychedelia in their music.
Music of the 60’s also shaped a pathway for environmental activism in the 1960s. The movement supported safeguarding, restoring, and protecting the natural world and all of its resources. Additionally, it was a time when the emphasis was placed on having moral relationships with the land, the environment, and biodiversity.
At the same time, the civil rights movement worked toward attaining equality for all people. The movement's fundamental concept was that each person's freedom should be valued and guarded against any type of interference. Essentially, it was a protest against any kind of discrimination against another person.
The rights of women grew more prominent. There had never been a better time to put these ideals into action than in the 1960s, a time when emancipation came in many forms. Feminism, as it is often known, was thought of as a collection of ideologies aiming at achieving equality in the economic, political, and social rights of women.
The music was highly rebellious, which was difficult for the "parents" or "authorities" of that perplexing period to understand, enjoy, or know. The kids did it joyfully and with excitement. Others discovered their identity, voice, and subversive thoughts, images, and desires in the music.
The music of the 1960s gave listeners a look into the character of youth, which hasn't changed much since then. Therefore, those who like 1960s rock are still listening to more contemporary rock idols and are most likely between the ages of 15-30 in 2022. Rock and roll will continue to exist as it was predicted to do.
Towards the end of the decade, there emerged a friendly rivalry amongst fans of different music genres. Part of the reason for this was that people were exchanging views since they were unsure of how the business would evolve and how important these things would be now. If they had been, they might not have acted the way they did.
The reason why 1960s music became so popular could’ve been because of its all-encompassing appeal of a voice that bucked the trends of the time, or maybe it was the exemplification or depiction of subversive voices and behaviours through live bands like the Doors or Rolling Stones, or simply the personalities of these iconoclastic role models, like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, or the Doors, which gave young people a sense of community.
Indeed, a lot of the artists from the 60s won't perform in front of a large crowd again. You can't help but think that now that they are older, they should be enjoying life without worrying about the expectations that their songs had created.
Like the rest of society, the future of music will unavoidably change. It's unclear as of yet when or how. However, it is up to the youth to decide what they will do. They might do it through technology now, but they shouldn't ignore a time when people lived close to one another.
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