June 2010 Archives

Popular Music & Popular Culture: The Sixties Assignments

Assignment #1


Utilizing web research choose a band or artist from 1960-1969-

Complete a 3-5-research paper on the band or artist of your choosing-

Explore the themes of civil rights, antiwar, black power, student power, counter culture, women's liberation, and/or other social themes that relate specifically to your band/artist.

Listen to their music and reflect the role the music played within the decade.

Assignment #2

Find Your Voice:

The 1960's showed the world the power of youth voice and action-
What's important to you? Explore and chose a social issue that is meaningful to you-

Outline the issue
What is currently being done to address the issue?
What ideas do you have to address the issue?
What music or artist's reflect a commitment to the issue
Volunteer 10 hours at an organization that works to address the issue
Design an awareness campaign to educate the public on the issue
Present your social action to the class

Popular Music & Popular Culture: The Sixties

The Ronettes- Bob Dylan- Curtis Mayfield-Nina Simone-The Grateful Dead-The Beatles- The Rolling Stones- Aretha Franklin- Sam Cooke- The Doors- The Supremes- Eric Clapton- Janis Joplin- The Temptations-Chuck Berry- Simon & Garfunkel- Marvin Gaye- Jimmi Hendrix- ------- What do all these artists have in common? The 1960's!

As I read through the chapter I easily recognized many names. I thought about their stories and their music. The sixties have often been looked at through much nostalgia, as all adults tend to reflect on their own youth. The music - the images- the message is also a reelection of the growth of a young persons identity. You have the fun "pop" music- the politically charged music- as in youth wanting to have a voice and be heard- you also have the extreme difference in musical style- voice- instruments- reflective in how we see young people dress.

If you have not seen the movie Bobby I highly recommend it.

This film captures an era - a generation. As in the musical artists mentioned above and the significant degree of difference among the music the one thing that they have in common is the emotion or identification I made after watching this film. There is a sense I get regarding the hopefulness- the energy- the possibilities. Even within the context of war- civil rights- women's liberation- student power- and counter culture. A significant amount of people found voice. They found strength to speak. They found faith to act. And then 1968 happened. The violence had accumulated. The voices and faces of hope where out right publically killed: John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X, and Bobby Kennedy...not to mention the local leadership in many communities. There then was a retreat. It seemed like an overwhelming defeat of a generation. The progress politically, musically, socially, is significant. Yet the momentum at a stand still that continues to today June 18 2010.

The music and generation of the 1960's did have lasting impact on pop culture. Fro example: The emergence of Rolling Stone magazine. Jann Wenner the founder of the magazine stated- "Rolling Stone is not just about music, but also about the things and attitudes that the music embraces." A medium that wrote and talked about music and impact formed many attitudes about music and culture. I can't help but ask who was the target audience of Rolling Stone? I am guessing (white middle class consumers??) The quote from Richard Farrar regarding The Ronettes Rolling Stone 1968 makes that abundantly clear: "tough whorish females of the lower class, female Hell's Angles who had about them the aura of brazen sex. The Ronettes were Negro Puerto Rican hooker types with long black hair and skin tight dresses revealing their well shaped but not quite Tina Turner behinds...Ronettes records should have been sold under the counter along with girly magazines and condoms." I honestly was shocked to read this. It made the women's movements very real to me. I am sure there was not harsh criticism like this for the Rolling Stones songs regarding how they talked about women.

The most interesting ideas to me are the contrasts and ironies among the music and pop culture of the 60's. There is all this fight and gains regarding human relationship- admiration for each other's music- and even collaboration and at the exact same time separation, violence, and power struggle..

I often ask myself what can I learn or what can young people learn about strength in numbers, democracy, social capital, or civil disobedience from the 60's generation. I think it is also a time to appreciate a creative spirit. It is vital to acknowledge the wealth of creative advances in all aspects of art. It also seemed to be a catalyst in extending educational and cultural advances that we have all benefitted from.

MUSIC REVIEW- Assignments

Assignment #1

Over the next week-
Put together a CD collection of 10 songs on a variety of artisits-songs- and types of music.

Then create a journal/scrap book-
Collecting music reviews of the songs you chose from websources, magazines, newspapers- etc.

Write a review of your album- The CD you created- comparing your insights on what surprised you- what you liked - what you didn't - and how the reviews you collected influenced your opinions of the album.

Assignment #2

Think about the people in your life. Ask someone (parents, grandparents, aunt, cousin, brother/sister, friend) from a different age group (at least 5 years older of younger) what their favorite album or song is. Listen to the song at least 3 times- Write a review of the song



06 If It's Love.m4a

I was driving down the highway bouncing between radio stations when this guitar into made be paused- then a swoop of drums- and " When everybody else is gettin' otta bed I'm usually gettin' in it". I smile remembering the moments I am crawling into bed at dawn. I turn it up- the song is smooth- the music behind the words is strong.

The lead vocals tell us a story. The story we all want- real love. It addresses the insecurities couples face, the break-up stories- the heartbreak stories. The part the keeps you listening is the belief that THIS love is enough. It really has nothing to do with what the partner is doing its all about what the singer is offering: trust, love, gifts, commitment, and being a better person because of the other or the LOVE.

The song uses familar symbolisim such as addiction and birds. For some the metaphor or cliche of "birds of a feather flock together" or the idea of being addicted to loving someone by seem over used or tired. The "us" against the world mentality.

When you hear "I love you from your toes to your face" how do you not smile? The music on this single will get your feet moving and may have you dancing around your kitchen with your forever love. Train reminds us that love is fun and possible.

Train's song If It's Love is the 6th song on the album Save Me, San Francisco

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fAmE & cElEbRiTy

Assignment #1

Have the students create a mask that represents themselves-
Discussion as a group what is seen on the outside and who they are on the inside

Assignment #2

Working with the students on perception and self identity have the students create a "mock" website. Have them create a persona/peformance based on the mask- creating a brand-an image- a product-

FaMe & CeLeBrItY

The captivating aspects of those famous are based on the connection a person makes to their attractiveness, energy, chemistry, story, music beats, lyrics, characters in movies, disposition, written words, appearance, how they have impact.....................................

People are attracted to celebrities for any of the mentioned reasons. Personally- I have my "crushes", those I find ironic/humorous, the music, the stories, and/or the films. There are varying amounts of investment in the celebrity even amount my friends. I don't really keep track of names, roles, 'gossip'- I am the one that says - "oh yeah, I know who you are talking about". Then there is the one who reads ALL the magazines; The one who follows the 'gossip sites'; The one who knows the bio- career list- up and coming projects- relationship status's- who they are in relationships with; The one who watches for up coming concert dates or shows; and The one who has "met" them.

Of course the famous- those that entertain us- and sometimes educate us are an aspect of the day-to-day life. We invite them into our homes, into our heads, we are curious about them beyond the art, we discuss their decisions as if they are our friends or family, we have strong ideas what they 'should' do- we are impressed- we are disappointed- we celebrate- and we mourn their loss.

I was thinking about the assignment given to us to explore a "pop star" through the eyes of art- performance- public identity and personal identity. I wasn't sure who I wanted to look into so I asked a few young people about 18 years of age who they thought was the "best" or most famous celebrity- who were they into right now. I was surprised by the varying answers especially with such a small group surveyed- This is what I got: Lil' Wayne; Jason Mraz; The one who sings 'forever young'; "I like that song Falling to Pieces & One Wish"; "Are you sure you want to ask me? I am into country!" I also asked my 9 year old- India Arie and my 12 year old- Mahalia Jackson! This brief window into young people really represents their surprising nature. As adults we think we have it all figured out. We think we know the answers before the questions are asked.

The celebrity that I thought would be interesting to look into was Mary J. Blige considering I am going to Lilith Fair just to see her. (I know what your thinking) Anyway, I am aware of the Primary Identity: Singer-Songwriter-Hip Hop Artist. I am also somewhat aware of the personal story before the fame. MjB is from NYC- the projects- it was not an easy way to grow up. I also know she came to fame barely out of adolescents. Listening to MjB's albums alone will reflect the maturity of growing from a girl to a woman.








Today in 2010 from what I could see MjB has the professional or producer elements down. MjB as a brand and a product is effective. I say this not in a dehumanizing way. I say this to reflect the idea that the art of music, the images of a person (Just thought of a good example: Diana Ross & Dream Girls: Dream Girls is fiction but mirrored images of actual Diana Ross images are constant within the film. Those images are the 'product' of the professional Diana Ross)





okay back to MjB- the glimpses into the relationships or life experiences that make up their identity, the wardrobe, in MjB's case her large sunglasses, and how she talks to or about her fans. She calls her fans- "fam".

MjB has released 7 albums; she is on MySpace; Facebook; and Twitter. The Twitter has her following 42 other Twitters and outlines the page with her new album as backdrop. Fans can sign-up to be part of her page to be connected to her artistry, image, and activities. There are links to songs and ways to purchase songs, concert lists, and recent videos. Fans can leave posts and MjB can respond or give a status update. Everything written on all her pages is in 3rd person except for a few sentences by her to the "fam".


The above website had some interesting insight into MjB's struggle with fame and fortune. She has talked about not having the education to be smart with her money or her image. She had to learn that the hard way. The most interesting idea mentioned in the bio was that after some bad press and taboo 'mistakes' (wearing hip hop gear instead of an evening gown to an awards show) MjB began working with a Public Relations firm on her reputation and image. This experience was more than that for MjB though. This experience provided her with an opportunity to learn about the world outside of her hood. It allowed her not have to be a certain way. This is what we do in youth work all the time. We expose young people to new ideas and experiences in order to allow them to have the power to decide what their life is going to be about.


If we are going to begin to talk about what's "real" and what's "true" we have to look at the fruit- as the scripture says. MjB's fruit lies within the foundation she has started. Creating a place for young woman to find confidence, education, skill building, and power. It's clear from the music of MjB and the glimpses into her personal life story MjB recognizes the impact of strong safe adults for young people.


As someone who appreciates the evolution of MjB's music: I respect the Artist (The private moments-the things I do not need or want to know), I am taken in by the Artist (The Public Self- I listen to the music, I buy the albums, I watch when she is on Oprah, and I am going to the concert. I even share these experiences with those in my life.), I admire the Artist (The Performance, the business women, the Philanthropist)

Musicians (Celebrity) provide for the public an art form. Sometimes that art is purely entertainment. Sometimes it provides an individual or a specific group of people a connection to something greater then themselves. I believe, as a society- the public- would fare better in respecting the artist. The grace to live a life outside of serving the masses especially in the way the masses expect! I believe the human element is often times set aside because an artist has shared their 'voice' and that the public robs it through ownership.

Censorship: Multi-Unit Assignments

Introduction to Censorship (Class discussion)

  • Explore the definition of censorship

  • Identify censorship or "banned" items/ideas by students

Look at "book banned lists-Read an excert from a "banned book" (ex.Huckleyberry Finn)- Play a "banned song" (ex. What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstong)- Watch a Film Clim (ex. Harry Potter)- and or youtube a video game- show a clip of visual art.....

Discussion: Students reactions? Imapct? Censorship reasoning? Censorship challenges?

Assignment 1
Looking At The Laws
8 to 10 page research paper
Students research the history of censorship
What protections regarding censorship do U.S. laws provide?
What situations have laws enforced censorship?
What does cencorship look like in other parts of the world?

Assignment 2
Censorship - "Who Decides?"
1 to pages
Have students create a "criteria" list for censorship. (What would the student look for?)
What kinds of topics- expressions- ideas would they look at censoring?

(Once individual assignments are complete- The class/teacher utilizes the "Culture Shock" website from PBS-http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/index_1.html)

Assignment 3
Have each student develop a 5 minute speech on an example of censorship that they think was influenced by race, creed, color, gender, sexuality, religion, socio-economic factors.

Assignment 4
An Exchange of Ideas

Divide students up into groups of 4-

Have the small groups of 4 brainstorm a list of "controversial"- books, films, musical artists/songs, video games, etc....

Have each group pick an item from their list. 2 of the students will be "for" banning or censoring the item and 2 of the students will be "against" banning or censoring the item.

Have the pairs of students prepare their arguments as a team.

Each group of four then debates in front of the class their "controversial" item

The class (utilizing the criteria they created from the earlier assignments) decides if the item is censored or not.

Interesting Websites:


Minnesota Public Radio

Brother Ali was on MPR last week and he was talking about this classes subject matter- Popular Music/Culture and they even discussed Authenticity....Here is the Link............


Side Note

Regarding the question what makes music a real-genuine expirence? My six year old niece was recently introduced to Mozart via youtube in her 1st grade music class. As the family walked into the house (one by one) she would run across the room and say "Auntie- YOU HAVE TO HEAR THIS"; "Grandma- YOU HAVE TO HEAR THIS" over and over. Then she would proclaim - "ISN'T IT BEAUTIFUL!" She must have played that clip 6 times to make sure each of us shared her expeirence. When I asked her, "why do you love this song?" Her response was- "BECAUSE I DOOOOOOOO". HERE is the link



Assignment #1

1. Have the students print out the lyrics to their favorite songs.
2. Get into small groups of 4
3. Have the students read the words to the group- have each student write a couple of sentences of response: What did the song have to say? Was it 'real'- why/why not
4. Have each student share why they choose the song.
5. As a large group- each group shares a little about their discussions

Assignment #2
Teachers- plays classical and instrumental music
-discussion on 'authenticity'
Teachers- plays a hip hop song- pop song- country song- rock song-
-what do we know about these artists- their music- their lives- how does the music impact students choices-relationships- purchases- dreams...

Assignment #3
Have the students collect pictues (family/friends), book covers, movie ads, poems, song lyrics, magazine pictues, google images for 2 categories (what's real-authentic-truth) & (what's fake- imitation- branded) Have the students create to large murals and compare the two.

Discussion on what they see

Musicology III

Authenticity- 4 Real-Keepin' it Real- True That-Show Respect-

Authentic is not a word I would neccessarily hear a young person say, but they know what it means when they hear it, see it, and/or experience it. Authenticity literally means: "undisputed credibility"- genuineness, legitimacy, purity, accuracy, truth. One of the definitions of "real" is "being worthy of the name".

As I read over these words that describe "Authenticity" I find myself reading the words that reflect the ideas that young people are striving for as they growing toward adulthood. The world young people live in is one of constant navigation of the adult world influenced by educational systems, peer groups, family, culture, and of course mass media. All through this navigation young people are looking to be legitmized, to have a genuine expirence, and to be credible.

When people turn to music (young or not so young) it is to have an expirence. There is now a webiste that (www.stereomood.com) where you can put in a mood or an activity and it will create a playlist. I am currently on the site and choose writing as my activity and it is playing No Cars Go by Maxence Cyrin.

One reason I enjoy working with young people is that they are so committed to thier ideas and passions. It is no wonder young people are so clear about their music. Regardless of the kind of music to them it is the best and its real. Sometimes its about the lyrics and others the beats. Its the song they can dance to over and over again or its the song that brings the tears. The music tells the story of their life or the life maybe they dream about. The music may not tell their exact story but the song has the words that the young people has not thought of. This is why music can speak to people across cultural and socio economic backgrounds.

My favorite song of all time is Not Even The Trees by Hootie and The Blowfish 1994 10 Not Even The Trees.mp3

Is this song- band- authentic? To me for my life, my expierences, and my soul- yes. Can I prove it to you? No. What I can do to share the song- the band- and my story. The question becomes bigger though. The question of authenticity is not just about something I identify with. Its about the massess. What's popular? What's making money? What's selling products? Who's touring? Who's selling t-shirts? Who's writing their tell all book? This is how the lines between the music that speaks to our souls and when music feels corrupted by all the background noise.

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