American Popular Music Essay

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The 1970s saw the emergence of what scholars call "second wave feminism," a continuation, that is, of the struggle for gender equality, begun at Seneca Falls in 1848, that climaxed with the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the vote.

In the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, social and political activists organized to press for gender equality as well as racial equality, calling for equal pay for women and equal access to education and participation in sports, as well as the creation of new gender ideals and roles for both sexes.

There were, of course, feminist anthems, most notably "I Am Woman" and "Respect." But what Wollman stresses is the importance of the emergence of women’s voices coming over the airwaves, woman guitarists displaying their talents, and women’s challenge to the identification of hard rock as a masculine domain.

As women moved into law offices and legislatures, university professorships and Wall Street business firms, a parallel development could be found in popular music, as woman musicians moved into hard rock, punk, disco—and were heard.

But Browne and his contemporaries also had broad, social concerns that reached beyond the American borders.

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They urged their fellow citizens to extend their democratic vision and to support equality around the world, not simply at home.

In that decade, African American music and its rhythms seemed to cross a great divide and enter the world of white American teenagers.

Parents fretted; critics condemned; but middle-class teenagers purchased the 45 and 78 records of Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, and the white singers like Elvis Presley who became idols overnight.

Popular music is the soundtrack to much of our history.

When Revolutionary War soldiers went off to war, they did so to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." Abolitionist songs, sung by groups like the Hutchinson Family Singers, brought the anti-slavery message to hundreds if not thousands.


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