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Human Rights Impact on Rock and Roll, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1187

Essay

Rock and Roll has long been associated with the freedom, So the strong interrelationship it has with the fight for African American equality should come as no surprise.  Rock and Roll and the Civil Rights Movement simultaneously developed in the 1950s.  However, after the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans still struggled to maintain their identity and equality.  African American artists used Rock and Roll to inspire individuals of all color and promote the basic human rights of African Americans. The purpose of this paper is to explore the interrelationship between Rock and Roll music and the human rights of African Americans from the years 1967 to 1995.

The late 1960s continued to be a turbulent time for African Americans in the United States.  Despite the fact that achievements in equality were being made, such as Thurgood Marshall becoming the first African American to be name to the Supreme Court in 1967, it seemed that the setbacks were unremitting (CNN, 2007).  In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a nonviolent civil rights leader was assassinated.  His murder was meant to discourage the progress of the Civil Rights Movement; however, the very opposite situation occurred.  Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson were two powerful female Rock and Roll musicians, sang at Dr. King’s funeral.  After Dr. King’s assassination, African American musicians continued to thrive and became symbols of pride to the African American community and impacted social justice.

Jimi Hendrix is considered to be one of the greatest musicians of all time.  One of the forerunners of psychedelic rock, his “Band of Gypsies was the first black rock power trio” (AAAMC, p 4).  Hendrix was a remarkable showman and displayed his vast musical capabilities, such as playing the guitar with his teeth, behind his back, and even setting it on fire.  He proudly wore an afro and was unapologetic in his music and his support of for the countercultural movement.  Hendrix was a major participant in the concert Woodstock, in 1969, where he offered a memorable performance of the Star Spangled Banner – American Anthem (Wolfbob man, 2012).

Sylvester Stewart, better known as Sly Stone, was the powerful African American front man in the Rock and Roll band, Sly & the Family Stone.  The group formed in 1967 and was the first integrated group in rock history, in terms of both race and gender (AAAMC, p 5).  They had a unique sound, fusing psychedelic rock with soul, funk, and rhythm and blues (R&B) (AAAMC. p. 5).  Sly & the Family Stone used their music to delve into political and social commentary, setting the standards for future generation of artists (Erlewine, 2015).  Their album Stand! featured many protest songs set to a funk beat.  Even though their music was fun and energetic, their message was direct.  The song Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey., the group repeats this phrase as an anthem throughout the song.  The racial integration of the band and the audience chanting this edgy phrase in unison makes the message even more powerful (Chris B., 2014).  African Americans were getting the message that it was okay to be assertive and not allow other people, namely racist Caucasian individuals, to treat them poorly.

Ike and Tina Turner were another pair that left their mark on Rock and Roll, R&B, and soul (AAAMC, p 6).  The Ike and Tina Turner Revue dominated the charts with Ike’s powerful music and Tina’s mesmerizing presence.  Hits such as River Deep Mountain High, Want to Take You Higher, Nutbush City Limits, and The Midnight Special launched them into the limelight, and they achieved international fame when they opened for the Rolling Stones in 1969 (Peneny, 1998).  The Ike and Tina Turner Revue reached their peak in 1971, when they recorded a cover of Proud Mary (Peneny, 1998).  Though the original version by John Fogerty of Creedance Clearwater Revival had a much more mellow vibe, the recording done by the Ike and Tina Turner Revue gave Proud Mary a powerful and sexually-charged makeover.  The YouTube video, shown courtesy of John1948SixB (2010) shows Tina Turner presenting herself as a strong, confident African American woman, not afraid of her own power or sexuality.  She was especially relevant for African American women.  Tina Turner left Ike for being physically and mentally abusive in 1975, “with nothing more than thirty-six cents and a gas station credit card (Peneny, 1998).  In the 1960s and 1970s, most women could not rely on help from authorities in cases of domestic violence; the situation was even worse for women who were minorities.  In 1984, Tina Turner made a comeback in a solo career, and her Album Private Dancer featured edgy and powerful songs, which demanded equality in relationships.  In her song What’s Love Got to Do with It, she portrays a strong figure in demanding good treatment of women at one point breaking up a couple engaged in a physical confrontation (emimusic, 2009).

Rock and Roll music changed in the 1980s and early 1990s, and music such as metal and grunge became popular.  Many African American artists were migrating towards pop, hip-hop, rap, and R&B.  Some groups, such as Blacktop and Body Count, stayed true to Rock and Roll, and continued to use it as a medium to communicate issues concerning African Americans.  In an interview with Iced-T, front man of Body Count, he reveals that some people accuse him of “selling out” by incorporating Rock and Roll into his music, to which he responds “Music is music” (HipHopRijeka, 2012).  Body Count is a hard-core band with the crisp guitars of heavy metal, but communicates the issues facing African Americans living in South Central, Los Angeles. Ice-T further questions how he could “sell out” when Rock and Roll was invented by African Americans (HipHopRijeka, 2012).  According to Thomas (2015), Blacktop has been influencing punk and garage band since the 1980s.

The forms of Rock and Roll have continuously evolved throughout the twentieth century.  Even though the 1960s saw definite progress in the civil rights of African Americans, they still faced an uphill battle against racism and discrimination.  Rock and Roll’s fight for African Americans included provided them a sense of pride and a knowledge that they had their own unique culture.  African Americans were being publicly exposed to the notion that they could and should fight back against oppressive authorities and racist Caucasian individuals.  Rock and Roll was the medium that showed African Americans that they were strong individuals and deserved to be treated equally.

References

Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC) (n.d.). Black rock: Annotated

discography/filmography of selected holdings in the archives of African American music and culture.  Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~aaamc/br/AAAMC_Black_Rock_Discography_Filmography.pdf

Chris B. (2014). Sly & the family stone – Don’t call me nigger / higher.  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ecf363BkkM

CNN. (2007). Extra!: Civil rights timeline. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2006/EDUCATION/01/31/extra.civil.rights.timeline/index.html?_s=PM:EDUCATION

Erlewine, S.T. (2015). Artist biography. Retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/artist/sly-the-family-stone-mn0000033161/biography

HipHopRijeka. (2012).  Ice-T – Body count. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Djb3YbRMWGU

John1948SixB. (2010). Ike and Tina Turner – Proud Mary (my favorite performance).  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UyCb2FHt_w

Peneny, D.K.  (1998). Ike and Tina Turner. Retrieved from http://www.history-of- rock.com/ike_and_tina_turner.htm

Thomas, B. (2015). Artist biography. Retrieved from http://www.allmusic.com/artist/mick-collins-mn0000317995

Wolfbob man (2012). Jimi Hendrix – The Star Spangled Banner [American Anthem] (Live at Woodstock 1969).  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjzZh6-h9fM

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