ROCK TODAY: THE PERSISTENCE OF AN IDEA
Since the time of Seventies Fragmentation, Rock and Roll culture has continued to drift from the high point in the 1960s when a deep mixing between audiences allowed for racial and social crosscurrents that were unusual for any time. Though Hip Hop has become the most significant force in popular music of the last thirty years and regularly has a massive white audience, it has never been the bridge music that Soul was at one time--even if Hip Hop has done a tremendous amount as regards creating situations of racial mixing that far exceed the norm in this often racially-divided country. But Soul music's situation remains something toward which music can still aspire.
For its part, Country has seen moments in which it crossed over as a major force in Pop, with acts like Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, and Carrie Underwood--in that order--becoming major crossover stars but also recording music that looks less and less like the Country that had, for so long, been associated with Nashville. Occasional movements to return-to-the-roots do come along, as they are presently in the Americana movement, but such phases have not had a big effect on mainstream Country.
Rock itself has been witness to something that would have surprised, even shocked anyone who was paying attention to the music in the 1960s. The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, the Beach Boys, the Who, and many more acts from the Renaissance period of Rock and Roll, are still touring. In their sixties and even seventies, the members of these groups are often selling a remarkable number of tickets. For someone who complains of what has happened as television shows like American Idol generate the next class of big artists, it's often more "authentic" to see an act in their late sixties playing instruments and singing songs from the past than it is watching such programming. But there's no common agreement. One thing is for certain, though, Rock and Roll, in the hands of groups like the White Stripes and the Black Keys, and in the territory developed by Indie Rock and other more underground movements, the story carries on.
Given the patterns of Rock and Roll, it's easy to say that the next significant thing to happen will happen somewhere "off camera," in some garage or basement or one-bedroom apartment, where something fresh, urgent, and strange begins to come together, building a small audience and--finally--catching the world by surprise. The next thing has never come from above, from where the executives are sitting. And the next thing is, really, anybody's guess. But Rock and Roll can promise it's happening now, somewhere out there, and the ones who love this music and need this music the most are going to find it.
The lessons in this chapter consider some of today's musical centerpieces but recap much of what has been explored throughout this curriculum. If you've been doing your homework, the message should be clear: you have as much of a chance as the next person in creating the next great musical movement. It's only a matter of passion and a thirst to hear something that you just can't hear anywhere else . . . so you have to make it yourself.
Video pages: DJ Smashing Rock and Roll Records (1958) | The Beatles - Long Tall Sally (1964) | Otis Williams - Segregation in the South (2006) | The Who - The British Invasion (1966) | Graham Parker - Literary | Dion DiMucci - Music as a Way Out | The Towers (1957)