Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Popularity of Singer-Songwriters of the Early 1970s

In the early 1970s, the popularity of singer-song writers was mostly based on the tune of their songs as well as the lyrics. According to the article "That's the Way I've Always Heard it Should Be" by Judy Kutulas, Kutulas says that the singer-song writers of the 1960s and the 1970s "who wrote autobiographical songs and lived in the public eye, provided middle - class youths with some compelling models of modern gender, romance, and sexuality." Personally, I feel like the most important quality of singer-song writers during this time period was their independent lyrics. Artists such as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell wrote songs with lyrics that went deeper than the typical mainstream pop tune. The lyrics of Shelley Fabares' song, "Johnny Angel," were much more shallow and did not seem to go beyond being a catchy radio song.

Be-In and Woodstock Analysis - Akshaya Arjunan

The flyers for the Be-In and Woodstock are extremely fascinating because of the ideals and values that it advocates. First, in the Be-In poster, the bright vibrant colors immediately attract you to read the information. The entire poster calls for a peaceful celebration that is positive, open to anyone, and family-friendly. The image on the top center shows a man with his hands together in front of him suggesting peacefulness. The fact that it is free means that it is an event that invites people of all ages, genders, classes, etc. Moreover, in the items to bring section it suggests bringing families, animals, and so on thus suggesting that the event is family-friendly, non violent, and a simple peaceful gathering of individuals with similar values and interests. 

The flyer for the Woodstock also suggests a peaceful environment that takes individuals back to a nature-friendly atmosphere. All of the activities suggested on the flyer are artsy and nature oriented. Moreover, it advocates for experimentation and curiosity (as shown in the food section) thus telling people that it's ok to question and try new things. It also advocates going away from the busy city life filled with skyscrapers and cars into an environment that is focused on nature and simplicity. 

Be-In and Woodstock Posters

By studying these Be-In and Woodstock posters in class, it can be concluded that the values of the counterculture that arose in the 60s and 70s included peaceful protests, family-friendly values, and an overall sense of happiness that could be achieved through political change. In the advertisement for The Human Be-In, it encourages people to bring families, flowers, and banners. Both the Human Be-In and the Woodstock posters encourage people of all kind, whether by offering free admission or allowing up-and-coming 'would-be' artists to display their art at the art show.

Values of the Counterculture- Kristen Zulli

The values of the new counterculture were much different then the time periods we studied in the past.  Nearly half a million young and free spirits gathered for “three days of peace and love” to hear music and, in the process, became a community with one another. Woodstock advertised free space to roam and be free, instead of living in an area full of sky scrapers and traffic lights. All seemed to want others to engage in relaxing crafts and time to express themselves in the desire they choose.  The Be-In also pushed the new peaceful era with suggesting to others to bring things such as flowers, and instruments. These things would be sure to bring people together during the event and create a more bonding and welcoming atmosphere then in the past. 

March 17th

The values of the counterculture are quite different from the previous generations we have studied in class. The counterculture, through observing the Be-In and Woodstock sources, are very free-spirited and peaceful. The Be-In flyer suggests to bring candles and incense while the Woodstock flyer advertises its many acres of clean air and peacefulness of getting away for 3 days. As the article by Kutula also suggests, this generation was less concerned with the rigid way of life concerned with family and home life as seen before. The counterculture embodies a breaking free from lifestyles previously known and an entrance into a culture more rebellious and free-spirited than previously seen.

1970s Music Populartiy

I think the singer-songwriters of the 1970s were popular because their style of music was so completely different. They were writing and singing about their true emotions, and using the words "I" and talking about how they, personally, feel. This contrasted drastically to the rock and roll music that used the terms "we" and bonded everyone together as one. Like the song, Woodstock, it says "we are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon" and "we were half a million strong" which is bringing everyone together as one group of people interested in one common goal. However, the music of the singer-songwriters in the 1970s were expressing things like, "I am on a lonely road and I am traveling" from Joni Mitchell's song, which is individualizing herself from the crowd. Talking about her feelings, and the emotions of a woman, was radical at the time and I think that is why it was so popular- because people were genuinely excited about this change in music.

Values of Counterculture

The values embodied by the counterculture movement consisted of love for your fellow man, efforts to spread peace, and unity. It also created an environment in which people were capable of creating a sustainable community where everyone took care of each other. It was an escape from the monotony of everyday life that allowed for social interaction to be viewed in the context of selfless care for others.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Values of the counterculture

What do you see as the values of the counterculture, as embodied by the Be-In and Woodstock?  Please anchor your observations in specific details from the sources. 

Changes within the counterculture

How did countercultural music shift from the middle of the decade (Dylan) to the end (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young)?  Can you connect or predict how this musical change might have reflected broader changes in youth culture and counterculture at the time? 

Explaining singer-songwriters' popularity

How do you explain the popularity of singer-songwriters of the early 1970s?  What were the most important factors or qualities?  You can draw on the article and also on the songs you listened to in class. 

Critiquing singer-songwriters

Judy Kutulas has some critiques of both women and men singer-songwriters of this era.  What do you think about them?  What did women and men gain and lose in this restyling of gender roles and the rise of the “relationship” in popular music? 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"Santa Baby" by Eartha Kitt (Shopping Centers, 3-3-15)

Title: Santa Baby
Artist: Eartha Kitt
Year: 1953


Audio Link:

Presentation, March 3, 2015: “Santa Baby”

Presenter (Michael Hizny):
The holiday classic Santa Baby was released in late 1953. Credit for writing the hit song goes to Joan Javits, Philip Springer, and Tony Springer. Eartha Kitt, the version that is most popular, originally recorded and performed the hit. The song was recorded in July 1953 and released several months later for the holiday season. Santa Baby is part of the jazz genre, incorporating heavy tones of blues. It was distributed and gained popularity via the radio, most notably on the Moon Dog Show with Allen Freed. The song also rose to the top of the charts by deviating from the normal, nostalgic holiday song trend. Most likely, the song was intended for people to sing or play, rather than dance to. While Eartha Kitt’s version is still the most popular, such artists as Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, and Taylor Swift have done their own covers.

"Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt" Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt Songfacts. Web. 2 Mar. 2015.

Contextualizer (Julia Binder):
In the 1950s, it was the races of the audience, which predominantly determined, which genres of music found their way to the tops of the music charts. The Rhythm and Blues Charts were dominated by African American singers who were singing to an African American audience in urban centers in the south.  American Pop Charts were predominantly influenced by the remnants of the Big Band Era. The Big Band Era was a mixture of jazz music and the Swing era involving the use of percussion, brass and woodwind instruments. Singers such as Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole were all associated with this musical era.  Disc Jockey Alan Freed was most famously known for his radio show the “Moondog Show” where he played music with an up-temp rhythm and blues hints. Freed was able to differentiate himself from other jockey’s by aiming to reach both white and black teenagers and not simply an African Americans audience for R&B music. It was Allen Freed who came up with the term Rock n’ Roll.  Santa Baby then and now is listened to during the Christmas and Holiday season. The song makes it evident that people were moving into a world, which revolved around commercialism This was a big transition as the country was fresh out of the Great Depression. At this time, Eartha Kitt was considered to be the first African American sex symbol and the equivalent of Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe would go on to later cover this song. Kitt has said that she sung this song to make fun of herself as she liked to call herself “the original material girl” as she often was involved with rich and famous men.
"1950's Music Decade Overview." Rockmusictimeline.com. Rock Music Timeline, 2010-2015. Web. 01 Mar. 2015. <http://www.rockmusictimeline.com/1950s.html>.
"Eartha Kitt - Santa Baby Like No Other." Vintage Allies. Vintage Allies, 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 1 Mar. 2015. <http://www.vintageallies.com/1950s/eartha-kitt-santa-baby-like-no-other.html>.

Connector (Stephen Cohen):  
Looking at the song “Santa Baby,” we can see how it fit into the time in which it was written, in the early 1950s.  Most importantly, it emphasizes the trend toward more materialistic lifestyles that began following the Great Depression and rose through the 1950s and even on until today.  This song was actually written as a satire, making fun of the extravagant tastes of women during the 1950s.  In the song, she asks for very extreme gifts from Santa: for example, a yacht, suggesting that it wasn’t that much to ask of him.  She also asks for a brand-new convertible, a house (with rent payments), the deed to a platinum mine, and finally, a ring.  These extremely expensive gifts that she is asking for are more than people would generally ask for, but it still gets the point across about the extravagance that was starting to come with Christmas.  Along with these extravagant wishes, she is obviously trying to flirt with and seduce Santa Claus, calling him "baby" and "cutie."  This shows a trend away from traditional Christmas music toward newer, more risque sounds.  Another example of a song like this is "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."  The popularity of these songs goes to show that people were willing to break away from old-fashioned Christmas traditions, which is also evident in the giving of increasingly more extravagant gifts.  It's also important to note that Eartha Kitt, the original singer of Santa Baby, was considered to be one of the first African-American sex symbols, and this song was also covered by another sex symbol of the time, Marilyn Monroe, as well as Madonna in the 1980s.  Additionally, this song was mainly distributed on the radio, especially on the popular show hosted by DJ Alan Freed.  This program was also important to the introduction of rock’n’roll music throughout the 1950s.  As a result, Santa Baby became a popular Christmas song, which is somewhat ironic considering that it is making fun of what Christmas was becoming.  

Based off of the social norms at the time, how do you think people reacted to Eartha Kitt’s sexualizing of her Christmas song, after moving away from song’s which represented nostalgia and children at the time?

Discussion: -Samantha mentioned how at the time people must have liked it for it to gain such popularity and must have found it refreshing to hear something new

Do you believe this song represents the desires of the typical consumer at the time and how does it present the 1950s consumer to a modern day viewer?

Discussion: -Cassidy mentioned that the typical 1950s consumer probably viewed the song just as the modern viewer does, as a comedic viewpoint of unrealistic expectations

"Rewind The Fifties (Fifties Music): The 1950's Songs of Eartha Kitt." Rewind The Fifties (Fifties Music): The 1950's Songs of Eartha Kitt. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Don't Be Cruel" by Elvis Presley ("Tupperware," 2/26)

Title of Song: “Don’t Be Cruel”
Artist: Elvis Presley
Release Date: July 13, 1956

The Presenter (Hanna White):
            We chose to analyze the song “Don’t Be Cruel”. The song was actually written by Otis Blackwell and later performed by Elvis Presley. As the king of rock and roll, we felt that Elvis perfectly encapsulated the feeling of the 1950s because of his upbeat music. The song ended up being one of Elvis’s biggest and longest lasting hits.  Many things contributed to the success of this song. First was the genre. Typically considered a pop song, the song also had an air of rock and roll to it, which was very popular with the younger, rebellious generation. The lyrics also contributed to the song’s popularity. Elvis sings about a man who is alone, apologizing to his girlfriend, declaring his fidelity and eventually asking her to marry him. This appealed to the older generation who appreciated the traditional theme of getting married and starting a family. Finally, simply the catchy tune of this bouncy pop/ rock and roll song appealed to audiences, much in the same way songs today do to us.
            The song was distributed on the A-side of vinyl records. Basically, vinyl records had two sides, the A-side and the B-side. The A side was the side that the record label and artist wanted to display first, and the B-side usually wasn’t as popular. However, Elvis’s B-side of his records almost always reached the same success. In this case the B-side of “Don’t Be Cruel” was actually “Hound Dog” which helped the popularity of the song. The duo vinyl record sold 4 million copies in 1956. It has been covered by numerous artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Swan, Connie Francis, and currently sits at number 197 on the Rolling Stones list of greatest 500 songs of all time.

"B-Side." The Record. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.
"Don't Be Cruel - Elvis Presley | Listen, Appearances, Song Review | AllMusic." AllMusic. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.

The cover to one of the many "Don't Be Cruel" releases of later decades. 

The Contextualier (Ronnie Bandurka):
            The 1950’s served as a catalyst decade for changing social norms in United States popular culture, especially in the way of music and dance, as subsequent periods felt the impact that the 50’s rock ‘n’ roll revolution brought as demonstrated by 60’s protest rock and 70’s punk and disco. Rock was a developing genre at the time, one that youths clung to for its fresh and usually lively sound that adults often viewed as vulgar and inappropriate; this split between American youths and the baby boomer/war veteran generations grew wider as mainstream media largely appealed only to adult audiences while music and dance targeted the teenagers of the 50’s. One of the most notable artists of the 1950’s is Elvis Presley, who performed dozens of legendary hits including “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Don’t Be Cruel” and is known for his rhythmic “gyrating” style of dancing, his smooth voice, and his existence as an infamous sex symbol. “Don’t Be Cruel” was one of Presley’s earlier hits, one that drew in the ostracized youths of the 50’s by fitting in nicely with the new waves of rock and rockabilly and offering fun, energetic, and arguably sexually-freeing expression. Other genres that were popular in the 50’s include pop, country, and blues, with the rockabilly style that “Don’t Be Cruel” boasts being a mixture of rock, country, and blues influences. 

            Later decades would see the increasing influence of traditionally black musical styles through the rise of disco, soul, funk, blues, and R&B, but in the 50’s, racial tensions were still very high and the relationship Presley had with his songwriters was often questioned. Presley wrote very few of his own songs and often relied on the expertise of black writers to provide him with the hits we attitude to Presley himself today; “Don’t Be Cruel,” in particular, was written by Otis Blackwell, who did end up sharing the songwriting credit with Presley despite not seeing an ounce of the same fame as the rock singer. Presley was controversial in a myriad of ways, including his dancing, sexuality, and erasure of black artists in a genre that was arguably built by them, and “Don’t Be Cruel” was just the beginning of a long life of such notoriously “improper” behavior. “Don’t Be Cruel,” along with “Hound Dog,” created a ‘double-sided hit,’ as it was called during the days of record sales, with the songs signifying a slew of social and cultural unrests: racial tensions in the music world, the growing generation gap between the baby boomer/war generation and the teenagers of the time period, the difficulties of post-World War II America in regards to social stability, and the rise of the “sexually explicit” in the mainstream media through the popularity of newly formed dancing styles and musical genres like rock and blues.

The Greasers of the 50's that Elvis shared a similar style with.

Otis Blackwell, the original songwriter for "Don't Be Cruel."

Works Cited
"Don't Be Cruel." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

Gilmore, Brian. "DON'T BE CRUEL: Otis Blackwell's Triumph - American
Songwriter."American Songwriter. 1 July 2007. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://www.americansongwriter.com/2007/07/dont-be-cruel-otis-blackwells-triumph/>.

Pearsen, Stephen. "Music Played in the 1950's, Popular Music From the 50s." The People History. N.p. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/50smusic.html>.

Sanders, April. "What Entertainment Did Teenagers Have in the 1950s? | The Classroom | Synonym." Synonym Classroom. Demand Media. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. <http://classroom.synonym.com/entertainment-did-teenagers-1950s-23109.html>.