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An examination of what caused the “death” of Rock and Roll and how big business played a part in appropriating the rock and roll youth movement for commercial reasons.
As we have studied the early development of rock and roll and the labels and artists that brought the genre to great attention in the 1950s, we see that rock and roll suffered a huge decline after the death of Buddy Holly in 1959. Other events coincided with this: Little Richard converted to Christianity, Elvis joined the Army and Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry each had their fall from grace. Other popular styles began developing in the 1960’s to take rock and roll’s place: R&B was pushing toward soul, Motown was rising in Detroit, Phil Spector was making his pop records on the west coast, surf music was rising out of California and teen idols were created in the Brill Building of New York.
From your own perspective, answer these questions:
- Why did the decline of rock and roll take place when the genre was so young and vibrant?
- What was the appeal of each of the new styles of music mentioned above?
- How did commercial interests have influence over these developments?
- And finally: Has a similar commercial appropriation of a youth movement happened more recently, in your own experience?
When answering these questions, keep in mind the social climate of the 1950s, racial relations in the U.S., the civil rights movement and the role of commercial interests and the record industry in the development of the new popular music.
There are no right or wrong answers, your teammates and I are interested in your honest opinion. I am more concerned about content rather than length, but all of this should take up roughly one typed, double-spaced page, using a 12 pt font . Use your team’s discussion forum called “The Day the Music Died” to share your paper with your team members.
After all the students in your team (approximately 12 students) have posted their statements, read them. Then add at least one comment (can be as short as a sentence) about each team member’s statement in the discussion forum, “The Day the Music Died.”
I will read all of your statements and then craft my own statement with my reaction to what the students in the class have written and I will share this with all of you.
Respond to peers:
What an interesting cross roads in rock and roll music that began on February 3, 1959. So impactful was that event in history, it caused Don McLean to write a song about it. Just as rock and roll was getting going, the tragic death of Buddy Holly, J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson, and Ritchie Valens (a rising “Latino” rock and roll star famous for LaBamba and Donna) brought it to a dramatic halt. With Little Richards’ conversion to Christianity and Elvis heading off to the Army, I can’t help but think there were also some cultural and social reasons why rock and roll stopped in it’s tracks. Society (Parents) couldn’t handle the teenage rebellion that was under way so maybe those influences and pressures caused the performers to conform to societies demands. Even Buddy Holly and other artists of his time portrayed a “clean cut” image. The shock wave that was sent through the youth from Buddy Holly’s death an other crucial events gave opportunists a chance to slow down this rebellious, “hip shaking” teenage movement.
But it didn’t seem to last long when producers like Phil Spector, Stoller and Leiber and others saw an opportunity to capitalize. The creation of teen idols through music was shear brilliance on their part. The Girl Group era was also a good indication that the expression of sexuality and a bad girl image was still eminent with teenage females. The popularity of James Brown’s electric style on stage which only fueled the advancement of soul music and was considered to be the new name for R & B. Motown, Soul music and other popular genres during that time appealed to integrated audiences and I think that was the beginning of true desegregation in the United States. Surf music was appealing on the west coast with teenagers as they saw it as freedom from the norm. Beach parties, bonfires, music and good times.
This movement gave opportunities for record labels, producers and songwriters to maximize their profits. Radio stations played the music and TV promoted the artist. The use of these venues like American Bandstand only accelerated the excitement hence popularity grew and record sales soared. Similar to the popular music today, social media and music apps like Spotify help artists and producers make a name for themselves. Without YouTube we may have never known Shawn Mendes, Justin Berber, Charlie Puth or The Weekend. If Billie Eilish would have never uploaded her song “Ocean Eyes” to SoundCloud, she would have never won Best New Artist of the year (2020). Though technology has changed how music is commercialized, the rebellious teenager still dictates. Today, the music is much more sophisticated in it’s message and the issues range from depression and suicide to social issues like racism and sexual preference.
That’s all I got. I look forward to reading what you all have to say.
The decline of rock and roll happened around the time of Buddy Holly’s death. This along with many other causes sparked a turning point. There were many changes that were happening around this time. For instance, Little Richard converted to Christianity, Elvis had joined the army, and Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry had their fall. It just so happened around the same time that all of these artists were experiencing a change in their life that had taken them a different route. Although rock and roll was thriving during this time, it was these circumstances that led to the decline. There wasn’t really anyone else to take on rock and roll as these artists did and it was time for a new beginning.
Soul music was influenced by Gospel music and I think was key to making it appealing to a wide variety of people. By hearing similar sounds and voices like gospel, it had a more polished sound. By this, it wasn’t as threatening as people thought, and more people enjoyed it. Motown was seen as it broke racial barriers. It was during the civil rights movement and it was a combination of R&B and soul music. Phil Spector’s pop style was known for the “Wall of Sound” in which he used a variety of musical instruments, making his sound unique. This included the Ronettes, which they were known as the bad girls of pop. This brought more attention to girl groups. Surf music coming out of California was a new sound during that time and it re-established the guitar. They were about the beach, girls, paradise and cars and appealed to teenagers.
Commercial interests was the way that people got their music out and heard, as well as how they made their money. Like the payola describing people would pay to get their songs on the top 40 because that was how they go their name known and music heard. They would use radio stations, tv shows, movies and more to get their songs on the charts. Like the top 40 charts that was used in that time, those were the only songs that played. So, they tried getting it on tv shows like american bandstand, or even in a movie like Bill Haley getting “Rock around the clock” in the movie blackboard jungle. These were advertising for their name and helped artists succeed in the music industry.
Just like today, I feel as if people use platforms in order to get their music heard or their name known. This is just like through tv shows, like The Voice, American Idol, America’s Got Talent. I remember watching Carrie Underwood win American Idol and it is crazy to see how far she has come. But that’s becuase she got her name out in the music industry, and that’s what artists have to do in order to make themselves a career. Also, the radio advertises songs and artists, although it usually only plays the popular hits like it did with rock in the 1960’s. Now there are other platforms like instagram, youtube, and other social media that helps artists, even ones at a very young age.
The decline of rock and roll music occurred at the time of the notorious Buddy Holly’s passing in 1959. After his death, people struggled to make sense of how to move forward in the genre. Along with this drastic tragedy, other events were taking place in the midst. For example, things like Elvis going and joining the army, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry’s epic downfall, and Little Richard’s conversion to Christianity caused many people to wonder about the future of rock and roll.
Moving forward, things began to take a unique turn. Multiple music styles began to advance and develop as time passed. For instance, James Brown electric-like style and diverse stage presence progressed soul music to morph into what was known as the new R&B stylings. Meanwhile, out in the West Coast Phil Spector began pushing for pop records. By making his way producing girl groups, this allowed essentially an entirely new era to arise. The girl group era was very powerful and dominant for a multitude of reasons. This is where expressions of teenage image and sexuality advanced into society.
In addition to those advancements, following Buddy Holly’s death, the genre of rock and roll in general was able to help progress societal movements further in a way that hadn’t necessarily been done prior. For instance, musical stylings such as Motown, soul, gospel, and others began receiving support from all types of members in the audience, regardless of color. In this case, music brought people together and was able to pave the way for a less divided way of living.
That being said, none of this could have been done successfully without the help of what we know as commercial interests. Commercial interests were basically responsible for music being made, heard, performed, and used for income benefits. Not to mention helping people gain fame and attention. Musicians would become more popular through various tactics like radio shows, TV shows, or interviews in order to get out there and promote their sound. It was strategies like these that helped shape the way musicians gain success, as these are still strategies we’re often seeing now, years later.
From a personal standpoint, every time I go on social media I see somebody I know promoting their music. Whether it’s through videos on instagram, snapchat, tweeting their soundcloud names, or spotify. They are all constantly looking to get noticed. Someone I went to high school with used to post covers of songs on every platform you could think of before going onto be in the top 10 on American Idol. He is now in a successful band, living out his dream in LA. Crazy how life changes!