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Autor: anton 18 April 2011
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How Music Effected Civil Rights
Before the 1950s, the racial segregation in society was very evident. However, the youth in America began opening up to change. One of the major influences in the changing America at that time was music. Jazz was the start of it all. Jazz triggered many different types of music, such as rock and roll and rhythm and blues. Jazz started the revolution of music in America, which prompted the racial integration of society.
This transformation of society began largely due to one man. He was perhaps one of the most famous Jazz musicians and composers of all time. His name was Duke Ellington. He was a very clean musician, well spoken, and very well educated. He was already big into the Jazz industry by the early age of 17. By the time he was in his early 40s, he was at the peak of his creativity in composing, and the peak of his career. During this time he became the first African American to set foot in Carnegie Hall. It took a lot of bargaining, but he arranged a deal to play a concert there. Undoubtedly, Ellington made ample amounts of money for Carnegie. This event is quite often looked at as the start of the Civil Rights Movement. For the first time, a black man was allowed to play his music in a predominantly white arena. As a result of this, many White people became turned on to the Jazz age. This started the integration of society because for the first time, people found something to connect them with another race. This special bond between the races was music (Cheetham).
Musicians were not the only ones who used the Jazz Age as a chance to equal the races. Journalists also played a part in the movement, such as James A. "Billboard" Jackson of Billboard. Jackson was renowned for voicing his opinion that Jazz and Blues artists were deserving of cultural elevation and wider success. He often used his column to report occurrences of racism in the music industry, and pushed for African American success in this industry across the nation (McRae).
"The sound of America is sweeter, more soulful, and more sorrowful because of Black Artists," says Michael Eric Dyson, a reporter for Ebony magazine. Although Jazz had a huge impact on society, it is not the only type of African American music that influenced America's culture. Jazz was the beginning for all types of music to come after it, including everything from Bebop, to Rock and Roll, to Rhythm and Blues, and even Rap.
Rock and Roll began in the mid 1950s and is still popular music today. "Without Chuck Berry's 1955 Ð’â€˜Maybellene' and Little Richard's Ð’â€˜Tutti Frutti' the same year, all that came after them, including Elvis, makes no sense" (Dyson). At that time, some of the white population was still leery of what they called "race music." However, when Elvis Presley came into the picture, as well as many other white cover artists, the white community became very interested in what African American music had to offer. Although White artists like Elvis were taking the Black artist's music and singing it as their own, some black artists like Little Richard were not at all offended. By doing this, Presley and other artists alike made songs that were written and recorded by Black singers and songwriters available to a whole new group of individuals (Cheetham).
Rock and Roll was a major turning point in the fight for the Civil Rights Movement. This so-called "race music" was unacceptable, as far as many white adults were concerned. However, the southern, white, teenagers in society, who were beginning to cross the racial lines that had been drawn, embraced the music. That makes it seem no accident that in 1954-1955, during a time when laws supporting a segregated society were beginning to be destructed, young white audiences across America were welcoming the "race music" with open arms.
"By accepting Rock and Roll with enthusiasm, white teenagers endorsed a sensibility shaped by black Americans. The rise of Rock and Roll turned the cultural identity of American youth in an interracial direction. The tide that carried Rock and Rollers to fame was grounded in a process of social change that reached far beyond music" (Crawford 735).
The development of Rock and Roll brought about Motown in 1959. More than ever, black music enthralled the white listeners. Motown was the home of a few of pop music's most recognized voices. Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder were widely listened to by both races. "[Both of their] politics and pleads for change [in society] were rooted in love," says Dyson.
Two other Motown singers, Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin, both emerged from their base in the church (Dyson). Gospel music originated from African American hymns, and had a beat that was hard to dislike, even to a person who had no rhythm whatsoever. Aretha Franklin told people that her vocal style was heavily influenced by her father's preaching techniques. Franklin's performances used to turn concert halls into celebrations that resembled African American worship services, and audiences absolutely loved it (Reagon 29). "People would become involved in a kind of spiritual thing with herÐ’â€¦all kinds [of people]: dudes, sisters in Afros, and those in blonde wigsÐ’â€¦even men like 50 and 60 years old would run down to the stage and try to touch her" (Reagon 28).
Gospel music influenced many other singers as well, like Little Richard, James Brown, and Big Mama Thornton (Reagon 29). Ray Charles was another well-known musician who was very much rooted in the traditions of gospel music. One of his popular songs, "This Little Girl of Mine," was actually taken from the old Gospel hymn, "This Little Light of Mine." Charles, along with a few other artists, created a new style of music using the vocal style of gospel. The new popular variety was called "Soul Music." The energy of Soul captivated its audiences. It was so powerful that it began to overflow into all of the African American communities, and spilled over into the rest of America.
James Brown played a major role in this growing trend. In 1969, he became the first Black man in Cash Box, a magazine that was a weekly coin-machine and music-industry publication, to be named as a male vocalist on single pop records. He was cited as this for his Ð’â€˜pop' mean sales to the whole record-buying community, not just the Ð’â€˜Negro Rhythm and Blues Market.' This was a major breakthrough. To be recognized for such an accomplishment was a strong movement in the right direction toward marketing music to all types of people, not just one race or the other. "Brown's influence was so great that many white singers, including the Righteous Brothers, Joe Cocker, Tom Jones, and Elvis Presley imitated his style, giving rise to the concept of Ð’â€˜blue-eyed soul singers.'" James Brown and Aretha Franklin were proclaimed the Godfather and Queen of Soul. They made Gospel music and its delivery style an irreplaceable genre in American popular music (Reagon 31).
"[Many Black figures in America] have transformed our society through their love affair with excellence. Without their contributions, the U.S. would not look the same, sound the same, or struggle in the same way to fulfill its promise of opportunity and justice for all" (Dyson).
Music is still effecting racial integration today. It is the one thing that ties all different communities together. Even though black artists dominate Hip-Hop and Rap, it is widely listened to by people of all different races.
Cheetham, Andrew. "Introduction to Music." Oklahoma State University, Stillwater Oklahoma. 8 Mar. 2007.
Crawford, Richard. America's Musical Life. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2001.
Dyson, Michael . "What Would America Be Like Without Sixty Years of
Black Contributions?." Ebony 61.1Nov 2005 174-176. 09 Apr 2007 .
McRae, Richard. "Vincent, Ted. Keep Cool: The Black Activists Who Built the
Jazz Age." Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 20.231 Jul 1996 107. 09 Apr 2007 .
Reagon, Bernice, J. Smithsonian Institution. We'll Understand it Better By and By. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.
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