The following is an exerpt from a collaboration paper for Dr. Elva Smith's Social Change and Movement class. This was my contribution to the melange:
Like the cliché catch-22, experimentation with sex and drugs both became a result of and a genesis of popular music of the 1960’s. Free love and open minds mixed and mingled unreservedly with the musical expressions of coming-of-age baby boomers. The result is a quite mythical counterculture with a unique soundtrack of songs that, when played, instantly transports the listener to a time of great social change in America and the world.
However, sex and drugs were not the primary driving force of popular music of the counterculture movement; in actuality the social climate of the sixties fueled the artistic grandeur that makes up the music of that time, much as it does in today’s world.
The war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement, and the feminist movement, all had an immeasurable influence in the music of the sixties as evidenced by the lyrics of some of the most enduring songs of that era. Songs like “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, “The Times They Are a Changing” by Bob Dylan and “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival still evoke images in the minds of the listener of war, civil strife and an unrepentant shrugging off of traditionalist values.
The question inevitably is whether or not the music of the sixties had an enduring social effect. Whether one’s opinion is that the effect was good or bad, one can not deny that there was a definitive change in the social fabric which was in part motivated by the music.
The change encompassed more than social norms. The actual business of music was changed by the musicians and songwriters of the time. The aforementioned artists and their peers demanded artistic control over their music, and effectively took the reins from the hands of record company businessmen for the first time in music history. The spirit of autonomy borne of the rebellious nature of these artists paved the way for today’s “indie” bands which still have a powerful influence with the youth of today’s world.
Popular music is the voice of social collectivities when their voices can not find a true audience with world leaders. The voice of the music urges the listener to think, feel, and act. Above that, popular music is a truly entertaining historical record reflecting the social landscape of the time in which it was created.
Echols, Alice. Shaky Ground: The Sixties and It’s Aftershocks. New York: Columbia University Press. 2002.
Cavallo, Dominick. A Fiction of the Past: The Sixties in American History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2001