rock music: The Late 1960s and Early 70s—Rock's Golden Age
An important transformation of rock occurred in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival when Bob Dylan, noted as a composer and writer of poetic folk songs and songs of social protest like
Blowin' in the Wind, appeared, playing electric guitar and backed by an electrified rock band. A synthesis of the folk revival and rock subsequently took place, with folk groups using rock arrangements and rock singers composing poetic lyrics for their songs (e.g., the Beatles'
Eleanor Rigby). The Byrds' arrangement of Dylan's
Mr. Tambourine Man is a folk-rock classic. Performers like the Mamas and the Papas; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Donovan; and the Lovin Spoonful sang a kind of music designated
In the 1960s music mirrored the tensions of the Vietnam War era and played an important role in American culture. The verbal content of rock songs turned toward rebellion, social protest, sex, and, increasingly, drugs. Many groups, among them Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, tried to approximate in music the aural experience of psychedelic drugs, producing long, repetitive, occasionally exquisite songs with surreal lyrics (known as
acid rock or
In 1967 the Beatles again made history with their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which, in addition to including drug-oriented songs, presented a body of interrelated pieces that constituted an organic whole. This is considered the first
concept album. Subsequent products of this trend were rock musicals such as Hair (1968) and rock operas like Tommy, composed and sung by the Who.
By the late 1960s rock was widely regarded as an important musical form. Musicians such as Miles Davis and John McLaughlin and groups like Traffic or Blood, Sweat, and Tears tried to fuse rock and jazz, while such disparate artists as Leonard Bernstein and Frank Zappa attempted to connect rock and classical music. Groups featuring virtuoso guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, and Jimmy Page continued to perform variations on classic blues themes using the traditional instruments of rock 'n' roll.
From 1967 onward, the rock festival was regarded as the ideal context in which to hear rock music, and thousands of fans attended. The most successful and peaceful rock festival, Woodstock, was held near Bethel, N.Y., in Aug., 1969. Later, however, a similar event, featuring the Rolling Stones, was held at Altamont, Calif., and was marked by several violent incidents caught on film, including a murder. By 1970 several of rock's top performers—Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix—were dead from substance abuse. The dangerous, androgynous quality projected by the Rolling Stones was taken to extremes by performers such as Alice Cooper and David Bowie, who were perhaps as famous for their sexual ambiguity and outrageous behavior as for their music.
- Origins of Rock
- The 1950s—Bill Haley and Rock 'n' Roll
- The Late 1950s and Early 60s—Elvis, Motown, and the British Invasion
- The Late 1960s and Early 70s—Rock's Golden Age
- The Late 1970s to the Present—Punk Rock, the Music Video, and Middle-aged Rockers
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Music: Popular and Jazz