E. Post War America 1950-
1. Post War Baby Boomers 1950s
World War II ended in 1945, which resulted in 16 million veterans returning home to an uncertain future. Over 600,000 had physical wounds and 1-2 m sufferred form what was termed as battle fatigue. This resulted in a very high divorce rate and an increase in alcoholism and drugs among veterans (x12). The celebratory attitude and perception of a justifiable war were used to hide some of these problems. Even today the WWII veterans are seen as the "Greatest Generation" of the 20th century. However, recent history, interviews and documentation reveals that they too had many problems with the effects of war experience. There are only about 1.9 m WWII veterans left. The G.I. Bill of 1944 was effective in allowing many veterans a better education and housing loans. In the years following the war the economy recovered and the boom stimulated an elevation of birth rates. This generation were called the "Baby Boomers" and 76 m were born between 1946-1964.
The 1950's marked a shift into what was termed the "Cold War" mainly between capitalist and communist nations that had acquired nuclear power. The leashing of nuclear weapons in the form of the A-Bomb (U-235 fission) and H-Bomb (H fusion) was so devastating that an arms race and space race became substitutes for all out war. This also stimulated both parties to spy on each other, especially the U.S and U.S.S.R. In the U.S this unleashed paranoia, distrust and hysteria that made inroads throughout American society. Sen. McCarthy (Wisconsin) and J. Edgar Hoover (FBI) were the primary proponents of creating "Blacklists", hearings and arrests that resulted in 12,000 losing their jobs, including over 300 in the film and entertainment industry. Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" used the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials as a metaphor for zeal and dangers of McCarthyism . Smaller conflicts arose like Korea 1950-53 and continued through the century.
The contradictions and lies about the "Cold War" were absorbed by the "Baby Boomers" and in urban areas the Beat Movement began to question these aspects of the Modern World. However, the new suburbs were beginning to create an uneasiness as the 'Baby Boomers' reached adolescence and college.
The 'Baby Boomers' by sheer numbers became the most influential generation of the 2nd half of the 20th century. The impact of this group, the 'Baby Boomers', would not really peak until the 1960s when they hit their teenage years and college. New technologies, like T.V., and increased commercialism contributed to the many changes during the 1950s. In the music world, the merging of Country and Western with Urban Blues, brought on by the post war changes are best exemplified by a sickly Cherokee singer named Hank Williams. Williams began to mix syncopated rhythms in plaintive songs like Song # 10, "I am So Lonesome I Could Cry" in 1949. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins represented a transitional musical form referred to as 'Rock a Billy'. Finally, a truck driver from Tupelo, MS walked into the Sun records studio in 1953. With the recording of A. Crudup's blues song, "That's All Right (Mama)", the young Elvis Presley's (1935-1977) career took off. His release of Song #11 "Hound Dog" with 'Don't Be Cruel" in 1956 took him to the top as 'The King of Rock'n' Roll'. Earlier African American performers like Fats Domino, Little Richard, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry had broken ground but Elvis Presley knocked down the wall and suburban white kids from the north were hooked on Rock 'n' Roll. Another Southern Boy, added to the mystique with clean looks, but with syncopated rhythms from Texas blues. His name was Buddy Holly, from Lubbock, Texas and he was influenced by local blues and country, but after seeing Elvis Presley live in 1955 he immediately formed a group with high school friends ( Joe Mauldin, Jerry Allison, & Niki Sullivan) called the Crickets. Hits like "That'll Be The Day", "Maybe Baby" and Song #12 "Peggy Sue" brought Holly rapid fame but it was short lived. On Feb. 3, 1959 in an Iowa blizzard, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper and their pilot, Roger Peterson, were killed. Ritchie Valens also was arising star and had recorded a number of very popular songs with a infusion of Latin influence with Song #13, "La Bamba" being the most popular and with lasting impact since it was derived from a old traditional Mexican folk song. Both Holly and Valens have been memorialized in many ways including films and plays about their short careers. The new music and art of the 1950s began to show unrest of a huge generation that been seen to be indulged but lied to by the 'greatest generation' of the depression and WWII (Art Profile 5).
2. Civil Rights Movement early 1960's
As Rock 'n' Roll spread throughout the US and eventually the world, the Civil Rights Movement was building momentum in the American South. Desegregation stands such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Montgomery, Alabama (1955) where Rosa Parks (1913-2005) refused to ride at the back of a bus and the Little Rock Central HS , Little Rock, Arkansas (1957) student desegregation requiring the 101st Airborne. Pres. Eisenhower had conceded that past injustices would not be tolerated in the Post WW II America. These events launched Martin Luther King's non-violent protests. The Civil Rights Act after a southern filibuster was finally signed in 1960 by Pres. Eisenhower, but was limited to enforcing the right to vote. When Pres. Kennedy took office in 1960 he campaigned to expand equality to include desegregation of public schools and public places. In the Spring of 1963 composed a "Letter From Birmingham Jail" written to fellow clergy which stated his determination to forge ahead and not continue to coddle those that felt 'patience' was in order. In August 1963 there was the famous 'March On Washington' where Martin Luther King gave his " I have a dream..." speech. Many college students from the North became involved in Civil Rights issues that were mainly played out in the South. These protests revived folk music of earlier social movements and the 'New Folk Movement' was born on the college campuses reviving old folk performers from rural blues, dust bowl folksingers, gospel, bluegrass and urban Beatnik poetry. As the New Folk Movement of the early 1960's started in college coffee shops it soon spread to Greenwich Village, protest gatherings and eventually to records and TV. A young folk singer, Bob Dylan, from Minnesota wrote Song #14 "Blowin' In The Wind" in 1962 and performed it with Joan Baez at the March On Washington in the summer of 1963. The devastating assassination of Pres. Kennedy (JFK) delayed the second civil right act to integrate public places and created a shift in that shook many young people on college campuses. As the civil rights spread to the North, the war in Vietnam expanded and forced a draft. Pres. Johnson finally pushed through The Civil Rights Act of 1964 that Kennedy had initiated. The Rock 'n' Roll British invasion dominated the pop scene and old American Rockers faded away or had to reinvent themselves. The impact of folk music changed R&B to Soul and Rock to Folk Rock. Song #15 "Respect" was originally written by Otis Redding for men but became a feminist expression by Aretha Franklin. Bob Dylan became more radical, but went to electric to the dismay of his folkie fans at Newport Folk Festival in 1965. Dylan's Song #16 " Like A Rolling Stone" is a scathing rip at expectation to conform and the society at the time. "Like a Rolling Stone" is considered to be the greatest rock song of all time even though it broke the 3 minute barrier. The effect of Dylan going to electric had pervasive effect on many group including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Byrds (Art Profile 6).
3. Vietnam and the Sixties late 1960s. 1970s
The cultural changes of alternative lifestyles often associated with the 1960s did not really emerge until 1965-67 culminating with the 'Summer of Love' in 1967 with the Monterey Pop Festival highlighting the new fusion of folk and rock. These changes can be explored in various art forms of the times including record album covers. More than anyone Jimi Hendrix, who had been recording in England totally blew the audience away with what was often referred to as 'Acid Rock'.
In 1968 everything turned for the worse, beginning with the TET Offensive during the Vietnamese Lunar New Year in January. In spite of Johnson signing another Civil Right Act 1968 (for fair housing), he renounced running as president. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy (RFK) were both assassinated and Richard Nixon was elected as president. Vietnam continued and Rock 'n' Roll lost top stars to drugs in 1970-71.
Instead of ending the Vietnam War Nixon invaded Cambodia and the National guard killed 3 students and wounded 9 students, on Kent State University campus in Ohio. The middle class began to call for an end to Vietnam but the war dragged out until 1975. Music became more commercialized with synthesized instruments, including drum machines to produce disco and funk. Song # 17 "Higher Ground" (1973) by Stevie Wonder represents the genre funk that represents a more serious side to disco and the dance club scenes of the 1970s and 1980s.
3. 1980s and Beyond
Alvin Toffler predicted in his book "Future Shock" (1970) that cultural and technological change was increasingly accelerating and would continue to do so. It would become a post industrial age, with globalization and information overload. The 1980s proved him correct as traditional industry in the US was increasingly outsourced, world population exploded and technology based on the micro chip took off. All sorts of media shifts were born with CDs, VCR, PCs, VGP, and MTV. The outlandish costume and color, gender bending and more drugs spilled into the video/music scene with commercial and grass roots genre such as punk (anti-disco), heavy metal, new wave, hip-hop/rap and alternative rock (college campuses). A young ex-Motown performer of the Jackson Five launched himself to global fame with the 1982 " Thriller" album that included Song #18 "Billie Jean" and his famous 'Moon Walk'. Jackson's album, "Thriller", remains one of the most popular selling albums of all time (104 million) and won him 7 Grammy Awards. Unfortunately drugs, AIDs, exploitation of outsourced workers and the faltering economy did not raise quality of living for many. However, the end of the 1980s brought the USSR dominance to an end with the bringing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
With the continued impact of the computer, internet and mobile phones the 1990s is seen as the coming of age of 'Gen X' who are born 1965-~1982. With the increase of divorce and the need for women to enter the workforce, combined with information overload this group or generation is characterized as being politically apathetic and fraught with major identity crises. As various music forms emerge and synthesize alternative rock becomes mainstream with news forms such as grunge which is best exemplified with Nirvana's album "Nevermind" (1991) with Song # 19 "It Smells Like Teen Spirit" and was called the "anthem for apathetic kids" of Generation X. Kurt Cobain and Nirvana's second album "Lithium" (1992) is considered more cutting edge addressing the use of Lithium salts for mood stabilization. Deep down it really addresses the fact that American society tends to find solutions to social and psychological problems primarily with drugs.
In the urban streets of America poverty and drugs drove people down and America is unable to provide equal opportunities. Much of the differentiation in poor urban and some rural communities continues to be the unequal tax distribution, low attendance and inability of parents to augment the inadequacy of public schools. In the 1970s & 1980s recent African and Jamaican immigrants on the East Coast developed new music and dance forms that became known as rap and hip-hop. 'Break Dancing' was an early dance that ex-gang members used to keep young kids out of trouble. However, Rap became commercial and a rivalry developed between East Coast and West Coast hip hop. Specifically, Song #20 "I Used To Love H.E.R." (1994) was written by Common (Ronnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.) in response to a feud with West Coast Gansta rap and Ice Cube. The song bemoans the commercialization of rap by the mid 1990s and H.E.R. is an acronym for' Hip Hop in its Essence and Real'.
As the world became more connected with personal computers, GPS, internet and cell phones there were numerous financial shifts due to destabilization of colonial and communist empire nations that sought independence, economic development and cultural dignity. As America entered the new millennium the uncertainty of resources, increased populations, nuclear proliferation and increasing paranoiac religious groups would lead to a dilemma as to the US role in the world. Then 9/11 terrorism became a defining event for the beginning of the millennium and subsequently launched us into the Iraq War. The latest generation to come of age is 'Gen Y' and early assessments indicate that this group is more disconnected to nature and social interaction due to increasing self gratifying technologies and global connections without social interaction. 'Gen Z' is still evolving, but certainly global issues and rapid technological innovation will have even more profound effects on them as they reach adulthood.
Recent trends indicate a severe shift to increasingly conservative, intolerant and vitriolic attitudes and behaviors. The media is bent on sensationalism for profit and is devoid of any self regulation or ethics. Misinformation is rampant on both sides of the so called liberal and conservative fence. Recently, a news reporter likened the characteristic of empathy as a Nazi characteristic. Obviously, sensation is the goal regardless of the level of stupidity. Unfortunately the public is equally stupid and continues to believe what they see on the myriad of T.V. and internet programs, sites, etc. as true or real.
Next Notes: V