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History of the counterculture

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History of the counterculture

The 1950's in America were considered a true awakening of youth culture. If this is true then the 1960's was a decade of discovery. It was a decade marred by social unrest, civil rights injustice, and violence abroad. These were some of the factors that lead to a revolution that attempted to bifurcate the fabric of American society. Teenagers were breaking away from the ideals that their parents held, and were attempting to create their own society. If they were to accomplish this they would turn the current system upside down. In 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said his most famous words: "I have a dream." (Constable, 144) He was not the only one who felt this way. For many, the 1960s was a decade in which their dreams about America might be fulfilled. For Martin Luther King Jr., this was a dream of a truly equal America; for John F. Kennedy, it was a dream of a young vigorous nation that would put a man on the moon; and for the hippie movement, it was one of love, peace, and freedom. (Constable, 34) The 1960s was a tumultuous decade of social and political upheaval. We are still confronting many social issues that were addressed in the 1960s today. In spite of the turmoil, there were some positive results, such as the civil rights revolution. However, many outcomes were negative: student antiwar protest movements, political assassinations, and ghetto riots excited American people and resulted in a lack of respect for authority and the law. However, with all the talk and the tension that this movement created it turned out to be an empty rebellion. While it did voice important concerns about civil rights, the Vietnam War, and the injustices of society. (Constable, 27-28)

It is important to first examine the change in music that was the fuel of the counterculture revolution. Rock n' Roll was born in the 1950's. It was this birth that allowed the counterculture to be born. Without the innovation of the Rock n' Roll of the 1950's the rock of the 1960's would have never evolved. It became an outlet for the teenagers of the 1960's to express themselves and voice their concerns about society.

Rock n' Roll emerged from rhythm and blues, a music similar to jazz played by blacks. This kind of music started to attract white teenagers. Disc jockey Alan Freed was the one who introduced this music and later gave it the name of Rock n' Roll. (Groliers, 1) Record companies distributed records played by whites but composed by blacks. Whites were frustrated because there weren't any white artists and they didn't want the blacks to be the stars until Bill Haley appeared with his "Rock Around the Clock". This typifies the racial attitudes of the decade. It showed the segregated view of society that existed among the races. By teenagers acknowledging black music it was a move that started to separate the culture of the teenagers from their parents. (Constable, 71-72) In this decade, Elvis Presley introduced a music that was sexual suggestive and outraged dull adults. In time he changed the style of the music by adopting a country and western style and became a national hero. By the end of this decade and the start of the next, Rock n' Roll started to decline because it was formula ridden and it was too sentimental. Teenage audiences transferred their allegiance to Folk music. In 1963 the renewal of Rock n' Roll came when The Beatles started to play. (Frank, 13)The Beatles, for some the best rock group ever, were from Liverpool, England. Through the 60's, The Beatles dominated the record industries and with their dominant instrumentation, which included: electric leads, rhythm, and bass guitar, drums and sometimes an electric organ, changed the name of Rock n' Roll to just Rock. During the 1960's, many other styles of music arose from Rock like, Motown, Soul music, Jazz-rock , Folk-rock and others. Folk-Rock the most appreciated of this derivations and was first suggested by Bob Dylan. (Groliers, 1-2)This kind of music brought to folk music a hard beat and amplification; and to Rock, a new poetic style. California was one of the major centers of rock activity and experimentation during the decade. First it was characterize for its surfing music, a very joyful music that reflected the fun people had while surfing. The Beach Boys were the ones who introduced this kind of music. At the end of the century this happy kind of music changed to a more rebellious style that was designated the name of "hippie music". Groups that played this music were Country Joe and The Mamas and The Papas. Along with this hippie ideas popularity of hallucinogenic drugs produced a psychedelic style of music called Acid Rock. By the end of the 60's the distinctions between Rock n' Roll and Rock were evident.(Groliers, 2)

The early instruments- saxophone, piano, amplified guitar, and drums had been changed to electric guitar and bass, amplified drums and other electronic devices. Not only did the instruments change but so did the ideas behind the music. For example, "to the lyrics of teenage love and adolescent concerns were added social commentary, glorification of drugs and free-association poetry"(Groliers, p.1). Groups like The Beach Boys, Crew Cuts and The Everly Brothers were replaced by

more imaginative, non-descriptive names groups like The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and Holding Company. The Who, the most famous of these groups, were originally from England and were renowned because of their bizarre stage performances, they would destroy their instruments after their performance finished. The Who was one of the first rock groups.

Another important aspect of the 1960's that influenced the evolution of the counterculture was that of the civil rights movement. In 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, and in 1965 they passed the Voting Rights act. (Constable, 153-55) The Civil Rights Movement did not just affect American minorities, but everyone who lived in the United States at the time. The momentum of the previous decade's civil rights gains led by Reverend Martin Luther King carried over into the 1960s. But for most blacks, the tangible results were minimal. Only a small percentage of black children actual attended integrated schools, and in the South, "Jim Crow" practices barred blacks from jobs and public places. New groups and goals were formed to push for full equality. As often as not, white resistance resulted in violence. (Constable, 148-150)In 1962, during the first large-scale public protest against racial discrimination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a dramatic and inspirational speech in Washington, D.C. during a march on the capital. "The Negro," King said in his speech, "lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity and finds himself an exile in his own land" (Gitlin 77). Under leaders like Martin Luther King, blacks were trying attain all the rights a white man would have. In 1965, King and other black leaders wanted to push beyond social integration, now guaranteed under the previous year's Civil Rights Act, to political rights. Reverend King announced that as a "matter of conscience and in an attempt to arouse the deepest concern of the nation," (Gitlin 84) he was compelled to lead another march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. When the marchers reached the capitol, they were to have presented a petition to Governor George Wallace protesting voting discrimination. However, when they arrived, the Governor's aides came out and said, "the capitol is closed today" (Gitlin 85). Unfortunately, the event that moved the Civil Rights Movement most significantly was the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1965. Moments after the assassination, terrible cruelty replaced the harmony. Rioting mobs in Watts, California pillaged, killed, and burned, leading to the death or injury of hundreds and millions of dollars in damage. The civil rights movement was a very important factoring in molding the counterculture.

Besides the Civil Rights movement, there was another important movement during the 1960s: the Student Movement. Youthful Americans were outraged by the intolerance of their universities, racial inequality, social injustice, and the Vietnam War. The Student Movement led to the hippie culture. This movement marked another response to the decade as the young experimented with music, clothes, and drugs. These young people became known as hippies. Hippies preached mysticism, honesty, joy, and nonviolence. (Time 7 July 1967, 4-5) In 1969, they held the famous Woodstock Festival for peace in New York, a three day concert that emphasized their beliefs. One of the chief movements that came from the Student Movement were the antiwar protests during the Vietnam War. (Time 6 Jan. 1967, 22) The United States first became directly involved in Vietnam when Harry Truman started to underwrite the costs of France's war against Viet Minh. Later, the presidencies of Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy increased America's political, economic, and military commitments in the Indochina region. (Constable, 71-73) Starting with teach-ins in 1965, the massive antiwar efforts centered on the colleges, with the students playing the lead roles. The teach-in approach ...

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Keywords: history of the counterculture movement, history of counterculture, origins of the counterculture, history of hippies and the counterculture movement, history of american counterculture, history of 1960s counterculture, what was the counterculture movement, what was the counterculture of the 1960s

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