Music styles in the 1960’s
by Erika Cox
The 1960’s was a trying and constant time of change in America. Race,
women, and social issues all rose to the forefront of our society’s
Many songs depicted and described the many social issues that were
confronting our society. Many artists in a variety of genres, including
rock, soul, and folk sang about civil and women rights and the other
social issues like the Vietnam War.
Much of the rock and folk music protested the Vietnam War and also
portrayed the rise of the beliefs of the young generation, known as the
baby boomer generation.
Soul music, of course, focused mainly on the race and civil issues
during the 1960’s. Many black artists clearly understood and related to
the racial injustices that Black Americans were confronted with and had
dealt with for many years.
James Brown was one of the soul artists that spoke out through his music
about racial and social injustices and through his music tried to uplift
Black Americans. Many rock and folk artists were in the age category
that most baby boomers were so they were able to relate and effectively
get the message across through music about the many concerns of their
Many of the baby boomers during the 1960’s were described as flower
children or hippies. Flower children focused on many of the social ills
in society but did so by engaging in a different lifestyle, one that was
the opposite of what was considered the norm or that was different from
their parent’s lifestyle.
A number of musical artists produced music that depicted this different
type of lifestyle.
Psychedelic music, which was popular with groups such
as the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, became part of the hippie’s
Many of the hippies, including the musical artists, used drugs. The most
popular drugs at the time were
LSD and marijuana. LSD is a hallucinogen
that causes the user to experience distorted images and sounds.
causes the user to experience what is known as a “trip.” LSD causes its
users to hear images and see sounds. Why someone would want to
experience anything like this is beyond my understanding but it was very
popular back in the 1960’s.
Many claimed to use LSD to escape the many social problems that occurred
and allowed them to “seek” new horizons, get a clearer understanding of
whatever it was they needed clarification on, and expand their
The psychedelic sounds of the artists’ music were closely
related to the distortion that LSD causes. LSD and psychedelic music
went hand in hand during the 1960’s. The Monterey Pop Festival included
many new psychedelic groups and many in the crowd, including the
artists, were high on LSD.
However, the flower children were only part of the large group of baby
boomers that fought against social problems through music. The sounds of
rock and pop music also confronted the many social problems.
A number of pop groups sang about issues. Groups like the Beatles, the
Who, the Mamas and Papas, the Byrds, CSN, Credence Clearwater Revival,
just to name a few. Folk music was also very popular during the 1960’s.
Many folk artists also focused on the social issues and concerns of the
1960’s. Artists like Joni Mitchell and
Bob Dylan were at the forefront
of the folk music scene when it came to protesting against or for social
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