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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.

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.

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 ( 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.

Musicology II

Musicology II
The music era of the 1970's seems to have two polar opposites. Punk................................................................................................................Disco
What I found most striking in the readings was the role of "youth voice". The chapters alluded to it and I am curious what the definition of "youth" is to the author. The audience defined by the record companies was definitely young adult 18 to 34 yrs, but the performers I question.

As I read how Punk music progressed from being something "opposite & real" to something volatile, aggressive, and clearly racist I thought about the performers. What was the goal? What was the true ambition? Were the performers trying to raise awareness of social issues? Were the performers truly making a statement of "white", "Nazism", "anti" everything except the privilege and power they already had? Or was it about making music? Becoming famous and/or about making money? At least the record companies who picked up the underground artists were about making money. It was about selling this "product" of the "myth".

I would have never said Disco was a political statement. I also don't see much youth voice in Disco. The ideas around fantasy, the exceptional made sense. The ideas of running from the realities of life that everyone (regardless) tries to attempt occasionally.

This coming together within "Disco" really made white men so insecure about their status in America- that is hard to believe. The strange politics behind something like "love to love you baby"! I am still curious about "youth voice" and "social change". Maybe I am looking for something more of the 60's but then again when did Marvin Gaye sing- "What's going on?" - 1974! 05 What's Going On.mp3

When history writes itself again will bands like Tower of Power, Chicago (The II album), George Carliton, Earth Wind & Fire, and Blood, Sweat, & tears get their own "Funk" category?

Musicology I

Rockin' Out - Chapter 9 on The Eighties was enlightening. I have always thought about this era as not very memorable for music other than the rise of Mr. Michael Jackson. Reading about the racial and political dynamics was fascinating. I had no idea the Thriller album was music genius, buy blow-up the racial divide of MTV and gave Black Artists a new level of credibility! 04 Thriller.m4a

Reading about how music or popular culture plays a powerful role both presently and historical in looking at race, gender, politics, social movements, and youth voice made me want to know. I wanted to know how I have and can be a part of that. In looking back over the progression of music and mass media the quote that struck me as how mass media created a shift from the culture OF the people to a culture For the masses. Immediately I thought of Rybika Music from Greece and Turkey. It is the old folk music OF the people. Majority music heard on the radio in America today For the masses.

Looking at the video's of Leslie Gore, Fiona Apple, and Lil' Kim demonstrated the "For" the masses to me. I didn't see anything OF the people. Leslie Gore's Its My Party seemed to imply (to me) that Johnny and her had a thing maybe even sexual that's why she made that public. The message- Men cheat or "play" women. And women are powerless. Women cry.

Fiona Apple's video Criminal - demonstrated to me the idea that women can have control over their sexuality. But it may come with a cost- guilt or even exploitation. When a girl or women is sexually exploited it creates an illusion of empowerment. The exploitation convinces girls that through sexuality they are women.

Lil' Kim' video How Many Licks- wow! It was clear Lil' Kim was in control of her sexuality and the relationships she entered. The men where acknowledged for what they could offer sexually. It gave a woman a voice to own her sexuality and to acknowledge it exists. The troubling aspect was the explicated nature of the lyrics and the images. How does this impact young people? I would like to know what a young person walks away thinking after watching the video.

I couldn't help but consider race in the context of the three videos. Lil Kim's emulated power. A power that black women do not experience in society. And at the same time comparing Lil' Kim to the other videos I asked myself what if a white woman made that video? Would it be passively consumed? Is there some subtle racism in portraying a black woman has over sexualized?

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