The emergence of Rock and Roll was one of the most pivotal moments of our nation’s history. The impact that this genre of music made is still evident in our culture. However, before this genre was able to gain momentum, it faced many cultural conflicts. The book, All Shook Up: How Rock ‘N’ Roll Changed America by Glenn C. Altschuler analyzes the impact that rock and roll music has made on American culture. It explores how the Rock and Roll culture was able to roughly integrate and later conflict with preceding cultural values. This is especially apparent in chapters regarding race and sexuality. Overall, Rock and Roll was extremely controversial amongst parents and educators. This new music genre was condemned by the previous generation as noise and a threat to established cultural norms. However, this genre of music was able to challenge racial barriers, teen sexuality, and family values.
The issue of race was one of the reasons for the rejection of early Rock and Roll. In addition, the birth of the Civil Right movement coincided with the explosion of this genre. It was a moment where Black people were beginning to identify and assert themselves racially (Altschuler 36). With various Supreme Court judgments (Brown v. Board of Education) ruling in favor of integration, segregationist whites viewed Rock and Roll as a symbol of Black empowerment and progression through the social hierarchy. As a result, the KKK and other white supremacist organizations began to openly preach exaggerated consequences of listening to this newly created “jungle music” (37). They feared that listening to it would cause the white youth to lose their sense of humanity and dignity. Therefore, the resistance to this genre, which was highly enjoyed by white audiences, was a culmination of all the hostility and tension of the Civil Rights movement.
Throughout the Civil Rights movement, resistance to this genre often resulted in violent assaults on Black performers in hopes of discouraging the expansion of Rock and Roll and its influence on white listeners. Altschuler describes the assault on Nat King Cole as an example in order to illustrate the degree of physical violence that resulted from this resistance. While performing at an all-white venue, Cole was ambushed by a mob of white supremacists and repeatedly beaten. Aside from receiving physical injuries, Cole was also criticized by Black activists for not demanding to perform at an integrated venue. The Amsterdam News claimed that “thousands of Harlem blacks who have worshiped at the shrine of singer Nat King Cole turned their backs on him this week as the noted crooner turned his back on the NAACP and said he will continue to play to Jim Crow audiences” (41). With continual criticism, Cole eventually joined the NAACP and began boycotting segregated venues.
Additionally, many black singers were exploited by record producers with the use of white “cover” artists in order to hide black singers from white audiences....