Music In The 60s Essays

Launch Teen Ink Chat


Chat with other
Teen Ink members

Teen Ink's chat is available to Teen Ink members only. If you're aged 13-19, please sign up or log in.
bRealTime banner ad on the left side

Site Feedback

Music of the Past vs Today's Music

February 16, 2011

It’s obvious that when turning on popular radio stations today, you’ll most likely hear one thing and one thing only- mainstream music. In a way, I can understand how it’s likeable. Most of it has a great beat, catchy lyrics, and the type of music is what we grew up with in our generation. Not all house music is terrible music, don’t get me wrong. But some artists of today have forgotten the main components that make a truly talented artist. Step outside the mainstream box for a second, and take a look at how much has really changed in music over the years. Sometimes, not for the better.

Go back in time a few decades, to the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Lots of the bands from these eras have become internationally famous, and their music has become classic. Artists like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Nirvana, and so many other successful bands. All of these bands became famous, because they had something that’s hard to find today- real talent. Many of the bands of the past wrote music that had real depth to it. Their lyrics were meaningful, they wrote their own music, they played multiple instruments, they didn’t use auto tune or synthesizers, and many other factors. Using something like auto tune was considered an insult back in the day. Today it’s almost on impulse, and everyone is using it so it’s not much of an indignity anymore. It’s more of the new regular, which makes it obvious that some mainstream artists of today lack the real talent of the music of the past.

Many of the lyrics have no real depth to them anymore either. Lots of mainstream artists don’t even write their own. The music is repetitive, and the lyrics sometimes involve swearing and the same typical situations, like “going to a club tonight”, “let’s get this party started”, or the typical thought that every song has to be about love, falling in love, being in love, or something having to do with love. It would be great for some artists to try and expand their music into more than just one topic of “love”, and try writing a song about a different issue or situation in life. This music is great for hearing at a party, or something upbeat to hear. But when you actually want to listen to the music, I’m not sure this is exactly what everyone is looking for.

To finish this, I’ll start by saying that not all music of today is bad. There are lots of underground bands of today – and even some mainstream- that still have the actual depth and talent in their music, to become even greater someday. It disappoints me though, when underground bands with real musical talent are getting less attention than a popular artist that constantly uses a synthesizer or has someone write their songs for them. It is an opinionated topic, but I still think it’s something for everyone to debate, whatever genre or era you’re a fan of.

By Alex H

The ’60s and ’70s were a time of social upheaval and cultural change, which can be seen in the music of the time.  The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, Jonny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and The Beatles are only some of the musicians and bands that emerged in this age of musical revolution. Many people look at this time in history as being the most important era for the development of music culture. It was at this time that lifestyles began to change. Many of us know this as the “hippie era” in which the youth of America began to question all parts of society previously accepted. People were challenging lifestyles, drugs, clothing, sexuality, formalities, education, and the function of the government in a democracy. Music is in a way a cultural artifact that sheds light to the culture and society at the time that the music is made and released. This is why we can use methods within cultural anthropology to study the music of the 1960s and 1970s, why it emerged in popularity, and how it contributed to the function of society and social change.

We can look at the foundation for this counterculture in music by looking at Boasian Anthropology. Boasian Anthropology has four main theories, cultural relativism, and historical particularism, diffusion, and salvage anthropology. For this purpose it is Historical Particularism that helps us study the music of the ’60s and ’70s. Franz Boaz states that, “In historical happenings we are compelled to consider every phenomenon not only as an effect but as a cause.” (Boaz, 315) When Boaz says this, he means that we have to look at the historical development and events of a culture in order to study their behavior. We cannot just think of historical events as being the results of something, but also as agents of change. In other words, if we want to look at how this culture of music developed, we have to look at the history of the united states prior to the ’60s and ’70s. Many of the youth in this era had parents who lived in the great depression. Their parents were used to a much more conservative and traditional way of life and culture. The music of the seventies was about controversial ideas that were not explored in music in prior generations. For example: the idea of drugs being associated with a peaceful lifestyle, an open sexuality, or an anti-violence discourse. The song “All You Need is Love” was released in the famous summer of 1967 by the Beatles. The song tittle became a famous saying for those in the anti war movement. To understand this, we need to use Historical Particularism. At this time, the US government was expanding its presents in Vietnam. People of America were tired of the deaths and the damage the war extended on their society. Boasian Anthropology states that each culture undergoes its unique history that results in its varying cultural movements. In this case, the music of America in the 1960s and 1970s reflected a time of Cultural Revolution brought upon by several historical events.

The basic premise of structural Functionalism is that society functions as a whole while areas of culture and society interact to make it work. However, we cannot just look at the function of society, we have to also look at the structure. This is what Radcliffe Brown believed. He claimed that, “For social anthropology the task is to formulate and validate statements about the conditions of existence of social systems (laws of social statics) and the regularities that are observable in social change” (Radcliffe Brown) By this Radcliffe is saying that when studying society and social change such as the counter culture of the ’60s and ’70s, one must focus on the social structure rather then biology. In order to understand the social phenomena of the musical revolution, you have to look at the social level. He also claims that all individuals are just performing social roles that allow society to function as a whole. This suggests that people of the ’60s and ’70s were not acting a certain way because of biological needs, but because of reactions to social influence and social systems. The music created a social system or way to question society that did not previously exist in such magnitude. The youth of America that were acting as rebels were not harming society, but were performing social roles needed for change to happen. This idea of Structural Functionalism suggests that all types of people help society function as a whole. The musical revolution allowed society to change and function in a way that was better for the changing attitudes in the country.

Music is a cultural artifact that can give insight into the culture of the time. Anthropology allows us to analyze music as a result of historical events and how it ties into the function of society. We have to look at music as an indicator of social change.


  1. Boas, Franz (December 1920). “The Methods of Ethnology”. American Anthropologist (jstorPDF) 22 (4): 311–321. doi:10.1525/aa.1920.22.4.02a00020. JSTOR660328. ISSN: 00027294.
  2. A. R. Radcliffe-Brown. 1951. The Comparative Method in Social Anthropology. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 81(1/2): 22.

Like this:



This entry was posted in Music Essay (2014). Bookmark the permalink.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *