For generations, music has remained of central importance to mankind. It has been used as a means of communication, education, entertainment, etc. However, as it passes through generations, some music genres have risen to prominence taking center stage in most of the cultures. In the contemporary context, the blues and music that emerge from it became important music genre in the country. A professor at Cornell University, Glenn Altschuler authored the book All Shook Up: How Rock 'N' Roll Changed America, in which he argued that the American history of the 1950s was influenced by Rock 'N' Roll significantly. He demonstrates how the genre of music changed the assumptions on sexuality and race and solved some of the other longstanding conflicts that were observed in the period. Consequently, this review will analyze how effective Altschuler demonstrates his central theme by analyzing the book.
Early rock and roll emerged in the context of different intergenerational conflicts that were in existence especially since it was just after the Second World War. Music actually signified the improvements in technology and prosperity exhibited in the country, therefore, remained to be an integral part of the culture of America during the Cold War period. Therefore, in general, Altschuler's main aim was to analyze how Rock 'N' Roll actually affected the American culture during the period. As a result, throughout the book, he tries to convey cultural conflicts and the shifts in value as well. In addition, he gives people's reactions and emotions associated with the period and determines how it actually ended up changing the entire nation and blurred lines between its people.
He starts off by introducing the effect of the music as cited by the New York Times in 1957. It had become so rampant such that it was described as a "communicable disease" sweeping through the country and attracted many youths. He introduces the music in light of race and sexuality. It was introduced during the civil rights era; therefore, Altschuler describes how the music fits in the historical events. As for sexuality, the music promoted behaviors that were different from the norm and even talked openly about sex, making parents and religions to panic over its influence (72). Altschuler also introduced the generational conflicts as the conflict between parents and teenagers increased. The parents were convinced that "rock 'n' roll reinforced the most worrisome aspects of youth culture: antagonism to adult authority and expectations; conformity to peer-group norms; and an ephemeral erratic emotional intensity" (99). He also discusses how the music affected the pop-culture of the time affecting the industry significantly. The mass media questioned its intention and tried to kill it, the music was revamped in Britain, and it started to rise to prominence once again.
The book is impressive, and it instills knowledge about the nature of rock 'n' roll that is impossible to learn in other aspects. Altschuler explains how the music was perceived to be rebellious. It went against all the norms held by the American culture in terms of race, sexuality, adult-youth relationship, etc. According to Aquila (1210), some of Altschuler's interpretation was problematic, for instance, the assumption that the music went into a "lull" after the payola hearing taking place in 1959 and only reemerged in 1964 after the Beatles. Aquila argues that Altschuler did not recognize that the period during this "lull" constitutes some of the greatest artists of the times including the four seasons, Brenda Lee, Roy Orbison and Jackie Wilson. Aquila even argues that the author never even considered the rising popularity of the music prior to the 1960s as evidenced by the charts. Aquila is quite skeptical of Altschuler's inability to provide the right facts; however, he acknowledges that the book demonstrates the pivotal role that the music played in our social and cultural history.
Similarly, DeCurtis (92) acknowledges that the book, despite setting an ambitious goal, manages to capture the feeling and views of most people regarding its influence. He acknowledges that the music "upset the traditional notions about race, sex, and parent-relations as it roared into the cultural mainstreams in the Fifties" (92). He particularly recognizes how Altschuler manages to connect major events that occurred, for example, payola scandals, juvenile delinquency and the fear that white teenagers are attracted to black rhythms to the deep sense of threat instigated by rock 'n' roll. However, DeCurtis also notes that the book does not cover enough grounds yet the historical events that occurred between the 1950s and 1960s could be used as a basis for a book on themselves. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the book provides sufficient introductory notes to the social effect of the music to the history of the country. Personally, I think that the book should be used as online teaching materials for history considering that it uses reliable sources of information of the time, for example, newspapers and magazines.
In conclusion, it is important to be aware that the book is monumental and instructive to the study of the historical context and effect of rock 'n' roll to the American culture. Despite its few shortcomings, the book is very educative and could be used as a basis for further research in the effect of music to society. By reviewing the central theme of the book, the impact of rock 'n' roll on race, sexuality, parent-child relationship and culture, the review determines that the book could be used for educative purposes.
Altschuler, Glenn C. All shook up: how rock'n'roll changed America. Oxford University Press, 2003.
Aquila, Richard. "Glenn C. Altschuler. All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America." The American Historical Review. 110 (4): 1210.
DeCurtis, Anthony. "All Shook Up: How Rock'n'Roll Changed America." Rolling Stone 933 (2003): 92-92.
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