The Development and Societal Impacts of Rock and Roll

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 3029 |

Pages: 7|

16 min read

Published: Mar 17, 2023

Words: 3029|Pages: 7|16 min read

Published: Mar 17, 2023

Rock and Roll during the 1960s disrupted the American way of living by becoming a potent voice for cultural revolution and improving the lives of everyone in the nation for it. During the 1960s, a new generation was coming of age. As the post-war trauma began to finally wear off, people became more and more carefree about the way they listened to and enjoyed music. This was reflected in the music of the 60s, which was more radical than anything else seen before it. This revolution was not only felt in the United States but throughout the world. The 60s marked a drastic change in American culture not seen anywhere since and the beginning of an era that would shape a generation.

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Music and culture were so important in the 60s because they have never been replicated since. The style brought about by Bob Dylan and the Beatles brought a distraction to the dread of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, growing an audience and providing solace for millions of mourning Americans. Rock changed the landscape because no other music style has had such a worldwide impact as the era of rock and roll did during the 1960s. Learning how rock positively impacted society can bring about the same changes today, either with a similar genre or even something completely different.

The origins of rock music can be traced back half a century, to the early 1950s and the rise of artists such as Elvis and Buddy Holly. Nobody knew where the music came from, and nobody seemed to care. The beginnings of rock and roll were like relatively unknown, but when the new genre seemingly popped into existence, a sonic cataclysm seemingly came out of nowhere. This was evidenced by the dismay of parents everywhere, who saw their teens and children quickly embrace the new rock and roll in a way they had never experienced. The combination of R&B from down south and jazz from the inner city created a new style of music that has never been duplicated or surpassed since. It was the only form of music specifically marketed to teenagers, which confused and angered adults who had never seen a specific genre recorded and sold to the baby-boom population caught between childhood and adulthood. It didn’t matter if you were black or white, rich or poor; rock and roll reached every audience and allowed the entire nation to express their views through music. Rockers were idolized and came together to record for millions of adoring fans or the beginning of major commercialized music. Both black and white took each other’s music and built on it, creating a blend of styles that came out as the finished product of rock and roll. Despite the horrors of segregation, white and black listeners and performers found more and more common ground with each other. This previously untapped consumer group of teenagers from different political and economic backgrounds was taken advantage of by labels and record producers, who realized what they wanted and tailored their music accordingly.

However, when rock and roll was created, it didn’t have an identity. While everyone and their mother knew what it sounded like, no one knew how to describe it or the way they felt. Rock and roll simply spread around the teens and young community because it described the things they saw and enjoyed the most: music, sex, and fun times with their friends. The slang “rock and roll” was a way they could talk to their friends that the adults didn’t seem to get. The medium of this underground teen culture formed the roots of rock and roll today. It was a sort of outlaw style of music that encouraged people to break the rules, something much different from what had been seen over the past decade. Before the electric guitar became the center attraction, saxophone and bass were early rock’s dominant voices. People came together for the all-American, multicultural hybrid that didn’t care where you came from and didn’t discriminate against who you were. Fifties rock and the origins of the genre blew away any social stereotypes and was one of the first examples of voluntary desegregation. People who listened to rock didn’t care that their fellow fans were black or white: they simply enjoyed the music together and reminded everyone of classic American values.

The problem was that, soon after, the spirit of rock and roll seemed to pull itself out of proportion. Famous artists were being pulled or sent to jail for misconduct or unfortunate circumstances. Elvis was drafted, Little Richard quit singing to preach, Chuck Berry was busted, and the list went on and on. Only years after rock and roll was created, it seemed like it would burn out in a fireball. In hindsight, the era was really the beginning of a movement towards racial, sexual, and social equality that no one at the time had ever seen before. Teens and young people embraced the culture, with many seeing it as having exceeded their wildest dreams. It was the beginning of a revolution: a time when the social norms that had been in place since the war were starting to crumble. Not only was it revolutionary, but it provided the template and model for every wave of music in the years since. This system of rock implemented during the 1950s introduced the United States to a wave of artists and songs that would change their lives forever.

This foundation of rock and roll was only the beginning of change for a new generation. As the 1960s rolled around, more and more yearned for the changes brought about by the original rock. The unfortunate circumstances of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry tamed the fires of rock and roll enthusiasts. To many, it seemed like the end of an era. The spirit seen through rock and roll was momentarily dead, but the culture could not be kept down for long. By the end of the decade, rock would return with a joyful vengeance and be a genuine force of cultural change. For the first time, rock and roll was considered a venue for change and political disorder. By the 60s, the lackluster Eisenhower era was ending and the new, fervent Kennedy era was just beginning. Many began to question the authority of those in power postwar and reflected this through their music tastes and politically explicit views. People found their identity in singers like Bob Dylan and John Fogerty, men from small beginnings who hit the big time from the tales of their sufferings. People could feel their pain through the music, and their songs became some of the most critically acclaimed of the era. It took the American spirit and put it on a record for everyone to hear.

The rise of the Beatles in the UK seemed to rejuvenate the spirit of rock across the pond as well. They led the way for Beatlemania in the United States and inspired new groups like The Who, The Kinks, and The Clash. Rock and roll fans of the 50s were overjoyed to hear the rise of this “new and improved” rock throughout the nation and across the world. These new bands and music styles brought about change across the United States. More and more people began to question the morals they were raised on, and instead opted for a system where they could believe what they wanted to. Many believed they were close to unlocking a golden age, and the rise of rock and roll just seemed to confirm that. As Ann Charters says in her article, Marching with the Fugs, “Wasn’t it Hemingway or some other existentialist who said if you felt good about something, then it was morally right? The idea of joining the gang bellowing out the racy lyrics of “Slum Goddess from the Lower East Side” unquestionably made me feel good. I belonged with the gaggle of provocative poets and their raucous loved ones strumming strings and banging on percussion instruments and carrying crudely lettered peace signs, proudly marching with the Fugs.” Her experience with other fans of the Fugs seemed to sum up everything her generation felt.

The music of Dylan and the Beatles had an enormous impact on pop culture and the youth of the nation. In the 1960s, drug use became increasing associated with rock and roll and the lifestyle it encouraged. The culture became intertwined with the music that it represented, and more and more artists and musicians began experimenting with drugs to find their muse. It began being a way to understand the deeper meanings of rock music. What was once taboo came to the forefront of culture through the sounds of the 60s. Songs like “Satisfaction,” “Get Off My Cloud,” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” popularized the idea of doing marijuana and other drugs to young listeners. The entire decade was characterized by this change of music style and illicit drugs. As comedian Charlie Fleischer humorously said, “If you remember the ’60s, you really weren’t there.” A whole new genre of music, psychedelic rock, was formed around the beliefs seen during the “drug trip” era. This impact on the music completely changed the culture seen at the time. More and more people began to take drugs, impacting the political and societal aspects of the 60s.

At the same time, the real implications of the civil rights movement were rearing their heads. World War II, technology, and the influx of workers and immigrants in the United States all created the identities of the civil rights movement and rock and roll. Rock during the 60s simply expressed the social anxiety seen during the civil rights movement in a way that was accessible to everyone who listened to the music. As rock and roll rose throughout American culture, the civil rights movement grew parallel to it. In fact, rock music is a derivative of musical forms like R&B that originated in Africa hundreds of years ago. Both blacks and whites could enjoy rock music, which was a binding force during the decade. The combination of black churches and organizations like NAACP and CORE brought about change for many underprivileged black Americans throughout the country. Black and white began to realize that they each had significant impacts on each other, and began to express this through their music. Rock and roll showed the opinions of the time through a medium that worked for both black and white listeners.

As rock and roll continued to gain popularity with white teenagers, they were introduced to a new world of rhythm and blues that they had never seen before. These teenagers, as they do today, used music to proclaim and declare their independence and show what ideals they embraced. This is the same as ever today, even with a different style of music and a completely different culture we live in. The generational gap bridged by rock and roll is not as wide as many would originally believe. To parents, teens became more private and defensive, which was immediately linked with the rise of rock and roll. This correlation between the two was immediately written as a causation, and rock music was to blame. It wasn’t widely known that this rebelliousness would fade away in their early 20s, so at the time parents became extremely worried. Juvenile delinquency was on the rise at the time and was swooped up by the media, who milked the story to the max. Many saw the problem of youth rebellion as the lifestyles of rock and roll, and did everything in their power to stop it. As William Bennett said “Rock and roll music has been perceived to have negative effects on the youth of the 1960s, that contributed to the deterioration of society. The implications of rock music on freedom are significant in youth rebellion, which parents in the 1960s failed to restrain.” While parents blamed the problems of their children on rock and roll, the real problems seen were caused by their own parenting. The lack of authority seen during the 1960s was impacted by the rise of rock and roll in a way, but there was more that parents could have done if they didn’t want their children to become extreme rebels like they made them out to be. Many parents became intellectually and morally disarmed, not wanting to show their opinions in front of their “cool and hip” teens. This system of authority being transferred caused many parents to hate rock and roll for how they believed it changed their children.

While parents in the 60s might have feared that the rock music of the decade was changing their children, the music listened to today is much worse that what was available then. Music was a teenage institution then, just as computers and video games are today. Today, some types of music like rap and heavy metal face scrutiny just as rock music did in the day. Many of the themes seen in these songs are horrible things like rebellion, violence, substance abuse, etc. While rock might have been bad to people in the day, music with these themes are that much worse. Studies have shown that adolescents who listen to rap and heavy metal daily are more prone to be violent, steal, and engage in sexual activity. This all started with rock music and the rebellion of the 1960s. This sense of rebellion and independence has passed from generation to generation and between families, just showing how much of an impact the genre of rock has had. While the impacts of rock music should be held in check, many have exaggerated the type of impacts the music has had on the United States and the world.

Rock music has been and always will be one of the best methods of uniting and bringing people together in a constantly shrinking world. Even in spite of this, the generational gap seen today is much wider than it used to be only a hundred years ago. Grandparents and children cannot seem to connect the way they used to be able to because technology has become so advanced in only the last fifty years. Back in the early 1900s, parents and kids could bond over similar interests like food and upcoming sports, which everyone enjoyed no matter their age. However, today teens are always online and have disconnected with their parents and family. One of the few things that everyone in a family may still like is classic rock music. Many families have been able to bond over this because of how well it bridges the generational gap. Grandparents and parents realize that during their “rebellious” days they constantly listened to rock and roll. Now, parents are passing on their love of the music to their children and grandchildren. These songs are still cool and sound good, which is why they still appeal to many young people today.

Many say today that rock is dead, and they wouldn’t really be wrong. Pop and techno groups dominate the chart, with the majority of teenagers today listening to more and more hip-hop and pop on music streaming services. It’s all about making your song “sound” the best when compared to others. Gone are the days of writing a well-developed, introspective song; in are the days when a song simply needs to have a cool beat and catchy lyrics to succeed well. It’s really unfortunate that rock is on the decline, but music is simply a trend like society. “The sign of the times” is as true of a phrase as ever. Rock has been tuned out for the songs of popular artists and icons today because many in the industry simply see it as uncool. However, this is not to say that rock has not had a huge impact on us and our culture. 

It’s unfortunate that many famous rock artists who shaped the mold of cultural music have passed away in the recent months and years. Innovators like David Bowie, Gregg Allman, and Tom Petty all had huge influences on the way rock went in the 1960s and 70s. Rock stars of the last half century have changed the culture they lived in and left the rest of the world a better place. While rock music may have been criticized when it was created, after listening to it for years and seeing what kind of music we have today is really disheartening. The combination of real instruments, songwriting artists, and music legends made rock what it was and still is. Today’s kids will never have anyone iconic like Led Zeppelin, Journey, or The Rolling Stones to look up in the industry, which is honestly pretty sad. They were famous for the music they made and how well their products were received, where today image is the most important aspect of a pop star’s repertoire. Rock will be remembered for its contributions because it defined a generation. It realized its own flaws quickly and never took itself seriously. After all, the point of being a rockstar was simply having fun. Artists soaked up the limelight but didn’t stop producing quality content because they got “too famous” for it. The reason rock was the most important genre of music in the United States was because it never died. Rock is still here and always be here because it doesn’t discriminate against generations and can easily be listened to and enjoyed by everyone. No one can say that playing rock “doesn’t take skill” or is easy because rock is the hardest genre to be able to play and master. It just has a charisma around it that cannot be replicated by the simple pop music of today. No other genre has impacted the world around it like rock because it took the ideals of the time and turned them on their heads. It was blatantly insensitive, but it created a generation that could respect greatness in a way that today’s kids will never know.

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Overall, rock and roll was a music genre that brought millions of people around the world together. Millions of people from hundred of different nations have their own take on it because it can be interpreted so many different ways.

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The Development and Societal Impacts of Rock and Roll. (2023, March 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from
“The Development and Societal Impacts of Rock and Roll.” GradesFixer, 17 Mar. 2023,
The Development and Societal Impacts of Rock and Roll. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Feb. 2024].
The Development and Societal Impacts of Rock and Roll [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Mar 17 [cited 2024 Feb 22]. Available from:
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