The impact of music on society is hefty, and artists have used their lyrics to pass very deep messages to society. It goes beyond just words and speaks out as a tool for the various issues that are impacting society— that people have purposely kept mum about or lacked the proper means to sentimentalize. The rock genre has not been an exception, with socio-politically fueled songs being made that have focused on the many societal issues. It has been noted that rock artists extend their musical passion as their way of life, giving a glimpse of how dedicated and aggressive they can get in social activism and revolutionary campaigns (Eyerman and Jamison ch.2). Through rock music compositions, ills pertaining social organizations and inequalities once hidden have been brought to the limelight, and masses challenged to come up with counter-incentives. In the same light, the rock artists and bands have spearheaded campaigns with a specific objective to target specific masses and influence their attitude. For instance, youths have been mobilized regarding drug abuse. This paper takes into consideration the issues mentioned above and explores other equally relevant ones to protract the relationship between rock and social politics in the past and contemporary times.
The 1950s rock artists kicked off the race campaign on high notation, whereby they used the rock music to ridicule masses that were still practicing the same as well as educate the essence of embracing the differences of other people (Leung and Kier 445). This was in the wake of programs like “separate but equal” where rock audiences set good precedence, as Black and White rock lovers came together in a rock and roll way of advocacy. Since rock music gained prominence in a time related racial tensions were at their peak, it is an undeniable fact that the artist’s sobriety in the manner in which the music was composed contributed greatly to desegregation (Eyerman and Jamison ch.2).
Rock music has over the years made key steps towards educating the public on sex and drugs. Based on the fact that its early founders were highly related with sex and drugs and a carefree attitude, it dawned on composers that the actions of musicians could in a very big way contribute to the moral directions the masses follow (Frith Vol.1). However, these initiatives were met with challenges when musicians’ proneness to drug use and abuse elicited mixed reactions from the rock bands. Taking up an instance of the Beatles 1960 band that had created a reputation for moral uprightness publicly glorified the abuse of very addictive drugs at the time. This had a severe impact on the public, and especially the young people that were of the mantra, “whatever their envied band—the Beatles regarded as funky, was acceptable.” Nevertheless, the subsequent decades saw drug-linked deaths of top rock musicians at the time, which greatly changed the youths’ perspectives (Leming 363). Aside from being funky, they realized the negative consequences were even weightier. Consequently, many artists were challenged to compose anti-drug songs and initiate programs to enhance achievement of this goal. A good example of such is musician Neil Young, who came up with an album dubbed “The Needle and the Damage Done” which sought to transform the public (Leming 380).
The issue of authenticity and autonomy has remained paramount among rock musicians, who have maintained their uniqueness in character, lifestyle, and fashion. Like religion, the rock culture characterized by Goth has struggled with authenticity issues where artists have been realized to go to unimaginable limits to retain relevance. The hard-core musicians have embraced a “world of their own” that has been the key to building loyal fans. From the inside, this is perceived as following the rock way of life which entails abandoning the ways of the world and operating under a spiritual realm of peace and righteousness. Finally, the rock music has touched the heart of society through the many giving back to society causes, in which musicians have taken lead roles. It has been argued that the tendency to do good among rockers and the rock music world can be associated with the love and peace themes that form basis as common denominators in rock music. During the Vietnamese War the earliest rock songs presented with the protest objective were conceived (Frith Vol.1).
From environmental conservation to anti-racism and anti-apartheid movements, rock musicians have brutally taken over activism standing against social discrepancies and pushing for revolution as opposed to compromise. Furthermore, the genre has attracted religious relations where musicians have used the music to communicate their faith subject matter. For instance, Pete Townshend has been at the forefront of incorporating rock music to Christianity. Looking at the above projected arguments, it can be stated that rock music goes beyond the songwriting.
Eyerman, Ron, and Andrew Jamison. Music and Social Movements: Mobilizing Traditions in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Frith, Simon. “Sound Effects; Youth, Leisure, and the Politics of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Sound Effects; Youth, Leisure, and the Politics of Rock ‘n’ Roll. (1981).
Leming, James S. “Rock Music and the Socialization of Moral Values in Early Adolescence.” Youth & Society 18.4 (1987): 363-383.
Leung, Ambrose, and Cheryl Kier. “Music Preferences and Civic Activism of Young People.” Journal of Youth Studies 11.4 (2008): 445-460.