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Music on American Culture and Values
Over time, music has molded the American culture and its values in a variety of ways. In this text, I will highlight the various ways in which both music and radio have shaped American values and culture. In so doing, I will identify my favorite genre/type of music in an attempt to highlight the impact the music I listen to has had on American culture and social behavior.
How the American Culture and Its Values Has Been Shaped by Music and Radio
In the words of Eldridge (2008), "by the close of the 1930s, twenty-eight million households (and seven million cars) boasted at least one radio set, with most tuned-in to a network or local station for an average of five hours a day." In that regard, it would be correct to point out that radio has played a critical role in the growth of music and consequently, the impact the latter has had on both the American culture and values. Indeed, Eldridge (2008) further points out that radio played a pivotal role in the transformation of the music industry especially given that it was the means by which a majority of Americans heard music.
Although music has had an influence on people's culture and way of life since prehistoric times, the role it has played in shaping the American culture and values has largely been felt in the last one century. This can largely be attributed to the role radio has played during that period as a means by which most people listen to music. As Eldridge (2008) points out, Kenneth Bindas -- a historian, is convinced that due to the closure of scores of dance-halls as well as bars and night clubs as a result of Prohibition, approximately thirty percent of professional musicians had already been rendered jobless prior to the Depression. It is however important to note that although the growth of the music industry was slowed down during the Prohibition and Depression periods, the resurgence of music sales after the said periods effectively meant that people were increasingly identifying with various genres of music.
After the reversal of Prohibition and during the Depression period, many musicians were faced with a daunting task of sales revival. Most musicians according to Eldridge (2008) were forced to explore ways of finding an audience again. This as the author further points out also triggered discussions of amongst other things the kind of music that was most likely to be valued and appreciated by the audience. While some composers were convinced that the mass audience could be reached via the utilization of a political theme, others felt that there was a need to craft an American musical culture deeply rooted in 'the folk' (Eldridge, 2008). It is also important to note that all the while, the hold radio had over the public continued being strong.
In the periods that followed, musical and radio content continued to shape the nation's values as well as culture. Artists began to be less conservative and with this, political, criminal and sexual content started becoming a norm rather than a rarity. This may have marginally contributed to increased crime rates, juvenile delinquency, promiscuity, and marital problems. According to Eldridge (2008), the diminishing opportunities for artists who were socially conscious were seen by some observers as a direct consequence of the commercialization of the mass culture.
Music has also been used as a tool of social change. Indeed, through their music, a good number of musicians including but not limited to The Beetles, Joan Baez, and Sam Cooke were instrumental in driving change during the civil rights movement. Music also continues to play an important role in uniting people regardless of their ethnicity, race, or even religion. The adoption of the sounds of various ethnic or racial groups has led to the appreciation of such groups and their diverse cultures (Keith, 2008). Elvis Presley and Eminem are some of the musicians who have played an important role on this front. The impact of various genres of music can also be seen in the way people dress an even talk. This is more so the case in Hip-Hop where artists and fans alike tend to dress in baggy clothes and use shortened words to communicate.
The Impact the Music I Listen to Has on American Culture and Social Behavior
Rock is my favorite type/genre of music. To me, rock is much more than a musical style. It is a cultural phenomenon. To others, it is a way of life. In basic terms, rock music is characterized by the use or utilization of drums, bass guitar, as well as electric guitar. In most cases, rock music is performed by a group of between two and six band or group members. In addition to addressing a variety of social concerns, rock music has also in the past aimed its focus on a number of other themes including but not limited to rebellion and romance.
The impact rock has had on the American culture and social behavior is largely based on its growing popularity since the early 1950s. Some of the areas in which rock music has had an impact on include language, attitudes, basic lifestyle, as well as fashion. To begin with, in regard to social behavior, rock music has over time promoted a sustained sense of togetherness. Individuals who happen to be fans of the same genre of music in most cases tend to feel 'connected.' The same thing happens to lovers of rock music, be it at a rock concert or in their everyday lives. It is important to note that this sense of togetherness could influence the stand individuals take in politics or even their mode of dressing. Fans have in the past tried to mimic the rock image, style and mode of dressing by amongst other things copying the hairstyles as well as dressing styles of rock artists. Examples here include the adoption of the Mohawk hairstyle commonly sported by rock music artists. Others have gone ahead to color their hair brightly in an attempt to 'conform' to the rock culture and style.
It is however important to note that in some instances, rock music could negatively influence the behavior of individuals i.e. teenagers. This is particularly the case in those instances where the theme of a particular rock hit song has a lawlessness or a rebellious theme. For instance, a line like "it's my life, I will live it the way I want…" could influence teens to turn away from their parents' or guardians' wise counsel. There are also claims that rock music has led to the establishment of a culture of drug abuse and promiscuity. This assertion has gained currency due to the fact that a number of popular rock stars are known to have struggled with drugs at some point in their lives. Others have been accused of being hard-living. Looking back, some of these accusations are true to some extent. For instance, in reference to the Beatles, Bob and Hanger (2012) points out that "America teenagers and young adults identified with their music, and the Beatles became role models and trendsetters to a greater degree than Elvis was able to match." It can therefore be noted that as trendsetters and role models, those who looked up to such rock artists were more likely than not to follow everything they did. At some point, members of the said rock group acknowledged that they were indeed users of a drug popularly referred to as LSD. This could have led many young followers to view the said drug positively. After all, if the Beatles could do it, perhaps it was 'fashionable.'
On a positive note, rock has in the past contributed to the betterment of the society…[continue]
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