Overview

From its raucous beginnings to the time of its mainstream acceptance, Rock and Roll was youth music. More exactly, it was the music of the teenager. Born of postwar affluence and the increased leisure time such affluence afforded young Americans, the teenager was a thing new to the American landscape. If for some they were an object of anxiety, this had everything to do with the fact that teenagers defined themselves in opposition to the parent generation. Rebellion was a part of being a teenager. And Rock and Roll was an expression of that rebellion and of the growing gap between generations. From the teen surf culture celebrated in the music of the Beach Boys to the mini-melodramas of the Shangri-Las’ Girl Group sound and teen dances including the Twist, the Stroll, the Mashed Potato, and the Watusi, the world of the teenager was made larger and more powerful through the music itself. As 60s Soul and the British Invasion demonstrated, it would be the teenagers, inspired by their music, who would define American life moving forward.