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Culture and Music of the 70s

Music is an outlet to all aspects of life and culture is a significant way of forming people and the way they live. Although not always seen directly culture has an overbearing influence on the music that is produced and made popular. The political Climate of the early seventies was full of fire with issues such as Vietnam and constant protest throughout the county. Later in the 70’s the end of the Vietnamese conflict brought the rise of the Watergate scandal and Iran Contra. These issues swept headlines and ingrained people’s thoughts.

Social issues also played a big role in the developing culture of the seventies. Protests and constant outbreaks about gay rights and women’s rights seemed to overtake the country in storm. Later in the Decade the social climate changed to a celebration of the Past and a can-do attitude. Political and Social climates had an overbearing influence on the attitude that was being developed throughout the seventies. This climate was also transparent in the music world of this decade. In the early 70’s music lyrics were being created that were representative of the popular method of protest and social change.

Music is a common way of expression and during this time artist and groups took the most of their popular music by expressing viewpoints on present issues. In the mid to late seventies the birth of new styles that broke from the old seemed to dominate the music industry. These new types of music ranged from disco to television pop. The music of the decade represented the culture and was greatly influenced by events and beliefs of the 70’s. At this time in American history, music and life became closely nit.

In the late 1970’s, national issues settled and the development of new music forms exploded. During the first year of the decade protest and war for gay rights was on the rise to new levels. Combining with the motif of protest was the issues of women rights. Women celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 19th amendment, and liberal abortion laws in the year of 1970. No longer merely entertainment, popular music became a powerful means of protest and an effective force for social change. The whole feeling of fighting for what is right was often found in lyrics and music of the time.

Although women had been in the music industry for centuries the song of the seventies that backed the idea of woman’s push for power was “I Am Women,” by Helen Reddy. The first line simply stats the mood of the whole song by stating, “I am women, hear me roar. ” As the nations excitement to protest continued to bolster an incident occurred that put a damper to the glitter. During an antiwar protest at Kent State University in Ohio, the National Guard is told to move in and calm protesters. In result they open fire on unarmed students, killing four students and wounding eight others.

This caused national uproar of protest and flashed the headlines across the county. Shortly after the horrific event, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young recorded “Ohio”, which drew attention to and in memory of the wasteful deaths of the Kent State Protest. The first two linen of the song read, “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, We’re finally on our own,” which puts blame on Nixon and his involvement with the Vietnam War and shows the individualism that the protesters wanted from the national beliefs on the issues.

Deep meaningful descriptions were also added to spur emotions, such as “Soldiers are gunning us down… What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground. ” The line, “How can you run when you know? ” is seen twice in the song and can be taken as talking of other problems that were seasing the nation such as the issues constantly being protested. Ironically following the death of the four college students at the Kent State University protest, Ohio Governor James Rhodes ordered radio stations to ban the song “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, fearing further violence.

Sales of the song “Ohio” were very strong and no further violence was reported. Another issue in late 1970 that dealt with the national radio and politics was Presidents Richard Nixon’s telling radio broadcasters that rock music lyrics should be screened for content. He further suggests that any music containing drug references be banned outright. On a different note religious themes started to appear more frequently in songs like “Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, “Let It Be” by the Beatles, “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison, and the play Jesus Christ Superstar.

Popular musicians in the 1960s and 1970s used the sounds of rock and roll to promote a revolution – a celebration of love, peace, sex, and drugs in a society obsessed with war, conformity, and greed. As the New York Times begins publication of Pentagon Papers on U. S. involvement in Vietnam the nations concern for overseas matters increases. With a greater knowledge of Vietnam matters, protesting continued and more than 7,000 antiwar demonstrators are arrested in Washington D. C. on May 3rd of 1971. As feelings stirred in the public about the war situation the music community also made ways of releasing their outtakes on the war.

Merle Haggard, known as “The Poet of the Common Man,” became popular for writing heartfelt songs that always could stir feelings. His controversial “Okie From Muskogee” crystallized the thoughts of those offended by longhaired opponents to the Vietnam War. As worries of American troops took the focus of many Americans, another concerning issue swept the public. A cholera epidemic in newly independent, but impoverished Bangladesh, caused major concern around the world. Once again music found a way to become involved with current issues by organizing a fundraiser for the desperate county.

In New York’s Madison Square Garden, “The Concert” for Bangladesh is held to raise money to help impoverish the Asian county. George Harrison played host to the event that raised more than $4. 5 million for the struggling county. With negative feelings flowing about America situation in Vietnam the music community also had many negative notes to begin the decade. The decade began with the breakup of the world famous Beatles in 1970. This not only caused a teenage disappointment but also affect those who had fallen in love with the English boys the decade before.

In an 11-month span between September of 1970 and July of 1971, the shocking deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison, all feel victims of wretched excess that was all so common of the era. As seen in past years drugs were used as a common way of escape both personal problems and problems that plague the nation and these famous music stars weren’t any different. As the Vietnam War kept grinding on, the cultural clashes at home were getting worse. Urban crises had forced many cities to cut arts funding. Federal subsidies were not available because the federal budget was in trouble as a result of the war.

This was another way the war continued to affect the lives of Americans and how music tied into these lives. In 1972 President Nixon ordered the biggest ever-bombing raid on North Vietnam. This and the whole feeling of Vietnam not only affected people inside, but this emotion was let out by such methods as song righting and rallies. With the events in Vietnam becoming even more serious groups continued to produce songs that highly promoted the idea of peace and joy throughout the world. A common song for peace that was found in the times was “I’d Like to Teach the World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” by The New Seekers.

The songs lyrics ring of the themes love and peace. “I’d like to build the world a home, and furnish it with love,” is an example of the topic and theme the song was trying to portray. “And hear them echo through the hills “Ah, peace throughout the land,” is a direct relation to The New Seekers feelings of the rising war scene in Vietnam. As the theme of peace became so obvious throughout the nation many other groups also composed songs that dealt with the war and need for peace. The Supremes’, “Stoned Love” tries to lighten up the darken scene by telling believers that love will bring peace and happiness.

This love and peace is seen through the lyrics, “I wanna tell ya of a great love, it will surely lighten up darkened worlds… A love for each other will bring fighting to an end. ” As always, great artists lifted the spirits and stretched the imagination of the nation’s music lovers. The 1950s musical “Grease” opens on Broadway, setting the tone for a nostalgia craze that will sweep the nation. With this tone set other forms of music followed such as a New York radio station WCBS-FM is the first to begin playing oldies. As these events went on the cry of many Americans was to return to normal or the “old days” before the war.

At this point of time wives and families simply wanted their soldiers back at home. Another example of nostalgia was a chronicle of rock history; “American Pie” by Don McLean is released and is the top single of 1972. During the times of such dalemias as the Vietnam war, which brought about serious topics and modes in music there was also brighter forms of expression. The musical Hair ends its Broadway run after 1742 performances in the year 1972 and the song “Hair” is representative of the current culture.

The lyrics speak of, “Gimme head with hair, long beautiful hair… ow it, show it long as God can grow it,” gives a good description of the current fashion feelings and sort of pokes fun of the fashionably popular long hair. Music of the 1970’s reached a height of creativity, influence, and range even as it united youthful audiences with it social, political, and cultural relevance. The Vietnam conflict was still a major issue among the states. War brought casualties and many missing persons including the POW’s. On February 12th of 1973, the first American POW’s were released from Vietnam and arrived at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.

With sympathy and thoughts for these men throughout the nation music paid a very special tribute to them through the song, “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando and Dawn. This song is a man telling of his events in first person and how he is “comin’ home. ” The lines “I’ve done my time, It’s been three long years,” describe how he has been a Prisoner of war in Vietnam and is now being set free. The rest of the song sees him facing the question if his love is going to put a yellow ribbon the oak tree.

A yellow ribbon was representative of a POW, which he had been for the last three years. This song touched many hearts of those who not only dealt with POW’s but also to the entire country grieving from the terrible war. This song went on to become the number one hit of 1973 and hold major significance to those in Vietnam. Obtaining much of the common thought was Vietnam, but other issues such as women rights still lingered around the seen of 1973. In landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Supreme Court overturned all state laws that deny or restrict a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.

This case was highly significant for woman rights of the time and also brought more recognition to the protests and messages that had been continued throughout the decade through rallies and music. After years of agony and national uproar American finally makes a stand on the fighting that has overtaking the concern of the nation. An agreement is signed in Paris to stop fighting in Vietnam. This announcement brings tremendous joy and relief throughout the nation. Music about the Vietnam War and war in general begin to slow down, but don’t completely cease.

As the decade rolled on, the political and social situations that had consumed peoples lives and thoughts took a dramatic change. Heated issues such as gay and women rights and national concern for the soldiers and the people of Vietnam, took a backseat and the nation began to experience a completely different mindset both socially and musically. Many different types of music were beginning to be created that had a variety of orgins and topics. With the problems of Vietnam, Watergate, and the economy still trying to hold down the nation, disco was a dance escape that became the craze of the late seventies.

Disco was first made popular the cities at black, Latino, and gay clubs. Disco helped people release their fantasies and was quick to catch on with its up-tempo beat and sexual sound. The primary message of disco was sex with its flashy lights and a hot crowded dance floor. In 1974 black artist began the commercial success with hits such as “Rock the Boat” and the hit “The Hustle” by Van McCoy, which seemed to become a usual at disco clubs across the county. Disco become so popular that by 1978 thirty-six million adults had invaded twenty-thousand disco clubs across the nation.

However disco was not geared for live performers so not many real disco superstars were created. However one such superstar is Donna Summer who blazed the charts in 1976 with the hit “Love to Love You Baby” and had a unique personal appearance that fit the dance floor. Hit after hit were being created and it seemed as though everyone was jumping aboard the train of disco. Proof of this is that nearly two-hundred radio stations had changed their format and now played continuous disco. Disco was “hot” and brought joy to people which made it even “hotter” during these times.

The late 1970s offered something for nearly every taste. There were radio stations and music stores to please every type of listener. Heavy metal roack used dark images and stage theatrics to bring interest into the new type of music. This new wave of rock dealt with subjects matters of sex and violence. One of the most popular groups that was seen in this class of music was Kiss. Kiss called attention and became popular through eccentric effects such as explosives, police lights, rocket-firing guitars, and bizarre make-up. The music scene was making a movement to a more flashy appearance rather than simply the music itself.

This fit the culture that was stuck on the appearance of things and didn’t want to become too involved. Black music also made changes and saw new forms developed during the mid-seventies. The Black form of Relevance music was developed. The songs themes had to do with the current politics and society. Most music of the mid 70s was in discontent of the times. Black Relevance appeared no different as it dealt with the concepts of war, poverty, and racism. The popular black artist Marvin Gaye released the single, “What’s Going On,” which showed his concern for the social and political climate of the time.

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