Monday, July 20, 2015

The 50's - Music for the ages

Setting the stage

World War II was over and the battle weary soldiers had returned home.  Nine months later, “the cry of the baby was heard across the land,”

This marked the beginning of the “baby boom.”

With help from the G.I. Bil, returning soldiers could afford low-cost mortgages which often made buying one of the trendy new suburban homes cheaper than renting an apartment in the city. So many families moved to the suburbs.

Consumer goods played an important role in middle-class life during the postwar era. Adults eagerly participated in the consumer economy. With the increasing mobility of the average person, use of a new payment method called, the "credit card" exploded with popularity. 1950 was the inception of the Diner's Club Card. Other companies shortly followed suit.

We are Woman!

The suburban baby boom had a particularly confining effect on women.

In her 1963 book “The Feminine Mystique,” women’s-rights advocate Betty Friedan argued that the suburbs were “burying women alive.” This dissatisfaction, in turn, contributed to the rebirth of the feminist movement in the 1960s.

And so it was with music!

The 1950's were a time of change and the music of the decade both reflected the cultural changes that were happening while still holding on to the societal norms of the past. The 50's was a time of innovation that helped to influence everything that we listen to on the radio today.

Following the detrimental effects of World War II, the United States was about to embark on a musical journey that would change the face of music for decades to come. 

Racial tensions were being strained with the beginning of the civil rights movement and music reflected many of those tensions. Rhythm & Blues (R&B) and Rock 'n' Roll popularized "black" music and many African-American musicians rose to prominence and enjoyed success, but while some were able to reap the benefits of their work, many others were forgotten or denied access to audiences through segregation. 

The 1950's saw the emergence and rise of Rock 'n' Roll and Rockabilly. 

Carl Perkins wrote and recorded the chart-topping hit "Blue Suede Shoes" in 1955 and the song was then covered by Elvis Presley and enjoyed even more success. Elvis Presley was dubbed the "King of Rock 'n' Roll" by many and rose to fame after beginning a professional relationship with Sam Phillips - a studio owner who wanted to market "black music" to white audiences. 

Elvis was more successful in this endeavor than any other artist of the time and he epitomized the Rock 'n' Roll style and teenage rebellion of the 1950's. 

Elvis was a growing phenomenon, and drove teenage girls wild with the controversial performance of hip gyrations on the Milton Berle Show in 1956. This performance shocked the conservative sensibilities of adults during the time but drew in the youth as his performance on the Ed Sullivan Show only a few weeks later drew in nearly eighty-percent of the television viewing audience. 

While Elvis is largely responsible for the popularization of rock music, it is important to remember the original African-American artists who created the genre and were pushed out of the rock scene like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, The Coasters, Chubby Checker, Fats Domino and the many others who were not afforded the opportunity to even record their music.

Next up: Music in the tumultuous sixties

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