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Social Impact of Rock-n-Roll
Rock music has appealed to young listeners for decades. It often celebrates the joys of being young, and it occasionally expresses the frustrations of the youth. Here’s a look at the good, bad and the ugly of rock-n-roll.
“Rock music can change things. I know that it changed our lives.”
I don’t remember where I have read it or heard it but I am certain that on a few occasions I have seen rock mania dominate certain segments of the Society. This may not have been the most perceptive analysis but it draws attention to an important point— the music of a country, culture or era can tell us a great deal about that age and the people. Musical production and consumption are not accidental. They do not exist bracketed off and isolated from the country. Music is an integral part of any society.
I have spent my precious two and a half years in a famous University of India though I was not a legal student there. It was at this time that I got to meet some real rockers. Like other teenagers, I too got addicted to rock music. I had accepted rock as a fashion and dressed in the infamous punk style characterized by unkempt hair, flaunting cigarettes and wearing torn jeans.
There were few rock bands in the university. Most of the rockers tripped on marijuana, grass, and tobacco joints. This filled them with a sense of well-being and stimulated their mind. Even I started to believe that someone who is “high” develops a positive outlook towards the world and life.
Rock music is one of the world’s most popular and adaptable music forms. It originated in the United States in the early 1950’s, and was known as rock ’n’ roll. From the start it appealed to young listeners. It often celebrated the joys of being young, and it occasionally expressed the frustrations of the youth.
Many adults dismissed rock ’n’ roll as a passing fad or condemned it as a threat to society. By the mid-1960’s rock ’n’ roll had earned wide respect as a legitimate art form. The music’s popularity spread internationally and among older listeners as well. By the end of the 60’s, the music had moved away from its roots in Blues and country music and it came to be known simply as rock.
In the 1970’s, rock became a bigger business than ever. It not only dominated the music industry, but also influenced everything from film to fashion to politics. As rock music became increasingly accepted, it lost much of the rebelliousness that had originally given it its power.
Since the early 1980’s, rock music has continued to defy musical barriers and has drawn much of its strength from international musical influences. Today, rock music is no longer only the music of young Americans. It is the music of the world.
The massive popularity and worldwide scope of rock and roll resulted in an unprecedented level of social impact. Instead of remaining simply a musical style, rock and roll influenced lifestyles, fashion, attitudes, and language in a way few other social developments have equaled. The social impact is so large that rock stars are worshipped worldwide and often performances of several artists in diverse arts and cultures are scaled to and appreciated as being close to that of a "rock star".
Rock as a culture has some darker aspects. Rock is often linked with sex, drugs, suicide, and violence. Today, at almost any "heavy-metal’’ rock concert one can hear the audience being exhorted to rape and murder in the name of Satan. Any loving parent today would be horrified and shocked to learn that their sons and daughters are eagerly listening to such evil.
Long hair, torn out jeans, long T-shirts, satanic necklaces, tattoos, leather jackets, pierced body and all accessories that normally parents call indecent are typical rock style. Rock is all about being rebellious. Rockers want to look tough both physically and mentally. Listeners want to look like their favourite rock stars.
A cultural war broke out in the mid-1960s in the UK over the rivalry between the "Mods" (who favoured high-fashion, expensive styles) and the "Rockers" (who wore T-shirts and leather); the songs were composed to praise one style and abuse another. Today we can see that the majority of teenagers love to flaunt long hair and wear printed T-shirts of their favourite rock star. In India, t-shirts exhibiting Kurt Cobain, Bob Marley, Linkin Park, Eminem etc are very popular.
Drugs were often largely associated with the rock lifestyle. Rock music also espoused the use of marijuana. Reggae singer of 70’s, Bob Marley popularized the use of marijuana in his famous song “smoke two joints”. One can find students smoking joints filled with marijuana in several colleges and universities. This seems to be a rage and is being practiced in different parts of the world. Marijuana is very common among youngsters because they believe that taking marijuana stimulates thinking and leads to a philosophic, positive life attitude. It causes a euphoric feeling. The use of marijuana was not the worst; the mass distribution of acid came next.
In the 1960s, psychedelic music arose; some musicians encouraged and intended listeners of to be under the influence of LSD or other drugs. In 1967 The Beatles had released their first album dedicated to the promotion of psychedelic drugs, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album contained a fantasized version of an LSD trip, called "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", or LSD. It became a top seller.
One month after the album’s release, the Beatles shocked the world by announcing, publicly, that they were regularly taking LSD. Beatles’ member Paul McCartney, in an interview with Life magazine said, "LSD opened my eyes. We only use one-tenth of our brain."
They also publicly called for the legalization of marijuana. It is common for rock stars to experiment with different kinds of drugs. The popularity and promotion of experimentation with drugs by rock stars may have influenced use of drugs among the youth of the period. One can say that the consumption of drugs is increasing with the popularity of rock music.
During the past four decades, rock music lyrics have become largely popular, particularly with reference to drugs, sex and violence. This has become a matter of great concern, specially the lyrics on sexual violence. Heavy metal and rap lyrics have elicited the greatest concern, as they compound the environment in which teenagers increasingly are confronted with pregnancy, drug abuse, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases, injuries, homicide and suicide.
Suicide is a prominent theme in music as a generation cries out having no hope. Today, death and suicide are a consistent part of rock music lyrics as the artists voice their own despair in living in a fallen world. This prompts people to take others’ lives as well as their own. Ozzie Osborne became famous many years ago through the “Suicide Solution”: Suicide is the only way out ... why don’t you kill yourself cause you can’t escape the Master Reaper...
Eric Anderson, 14, was a rock fan who committed suicide in response to the song. He told his father that he couldn’t cope with the pressure. He then went into his room and took a .22 rifle and killed himself.
For decades, rock music has been blamed for antisocial or inappropriate behaviour in teenagers. Ozzy Osborne’s “Suicide Solution,” AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill,” and Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, these are few examples that provoke depressed teenagers to commit suicide.
Rock music is known to encourage violence among youngsters. Some people believe that rock music stimulates casual indiscipline. Contemporary rock music is saturated with elements of cohabitation outside marriage, infidelity, sadism, masochism, homosexuality, rape and necrophilia.
According to the Christian point of view, rock music encourages open sex. From the late Marvin Gaye’s "Sexual Healing", Queen’s "Body Language", George Michael’s "I Want Your Sex", Madonna’s "Chemical Reaction", White Snake’s "Still of the Night" to the lyrics of Prince and endless others the theme is the same: promotion of sexual licentiousness.
Rock music also has a positive side. Several rock musicians have attempted to address social issues directly as commentary or as calls to action. In 70’s Reggae singer Bob Marley revolted against American imperialism like his famous song “Buffalo soldiers in the heart of America”.
During the Vietnam War the first rock protest songs were heard, inspired by the songs of folk musicians such as Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, which ranged from abstract evocations of peace as in Peter, Paul, and Mary’s "If I Had a Hammer" to blunt anti-establishment diatribes like Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young’s "Ohio". Other musicians, notably John Lennon and Yoko Ono, were vocal in their anti-war sentiment both in their music and in public statements.
Famous rock musicians have adopted causes ranging from the environment (Marvin Gaye’s "Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)" and the anti-apartheid movement (Peter Gabriel’s "Biko") to violence in Northern Ireland (U2’s "Sunday Bloody Sunday") and worldwide economic policy (The Dead Kennedy’s’ "Kill the Poor"). On occasion this involvement would go beyond simple songwriting and take the form of spectacular concerts or televised events, often raising money for charity. Recently, in 2004 a concert was organized by Linkin Park to raise fund for the victims of Tsunami.
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