Introduction (Revised)

Music has always been used as a mode of expression and popular music is no different. Popular music generally reflects the time in which it was produced. Much like ideas, over time, music shapes and is in-turn, shaped by the events surrounding it and in this case, the people who produce it. Throughout American History, popular music has taken on several different styles and genres, each representing some social, economic, or political change occurring during the time. These musical changes have been known to jump start other social, economic, or political changes in a pattern that is similar to Newton’s third law that states- for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This cycle of actions and reactions has shaped our nation’s history from the beginning the end of the Civil War and still does today.
Beginning with the Civil War, popular music has expressed the views of producers/consumers as well as the various historical changes taking place. During the late 1800s, though the legal bondage of the civil war had been broken, the racial tension was perhaps at its peak. Appealing to middle-class white northerner consumers due to the exotic feel, Minstrelsy became a highly demanded form of Popular Music. Reinforcing brutal stereotypes, and exaggerating real-life African-American circumstances, this form of popular music did have a positive side. It paved the way, however ridiculous, for African-American performers and artists such as Scott Joplin, who soon after became the Father of Ragtime.
Leading into the 1900s and well into the 1940s, African Americans maintained their position as prosperous performers of American popular music. Given the feminist movements that were taking place during the early 1900s, it was no surprise that African-American Women took to the popular music scene with Jazz and the Blues, a promiscuous genre that gave rise to the idea of modernity and emphasized the changing moral standards. This also gave rise to the regular recording of African-American artists through “Race Records” after the cost of recording dropped due to World War I. This feminist movement did more than to put African-American women on the musical scene, it also gave way to the flapper, the independent woman.
After the loosening of the moral standards with the Jazz, Blues, and flapper era, an era more focused on romanticism arose around World War II with the appearance of Hillbilly Music. This era focused on the romantic view of westward expansion of a steamer train with a singing cowboy. This was an attempt after the Great Depression and in the beginnings of the second World War to remind America of the good old days on the frontier. It was also a ploy by the producers to speed up westward expansion.
The romanticized view of westward expansion slowly drifted away however, with the rise of a new genre focused on doing what you want, rock ’n’ roll. With the rise of the Civil Rights issues, popular music took a turn to the extreme. Elvis, and The Beatles did and said what they felt like doing or saying. Elvis, with his gyrating dance moves on stage and many other artists rebelled against social protocol that they didn’t believe in. Many rebelled against segregation by integrating their crowds or jumping into the other sides of crowds to dance with the opposite race. Rock ’n’ roll brought everyone together, unified if only for a few moments with the admiration of this form of expression.
Throughout history, Americans have expressed themselves through music. They have also gained rights and formed bonds through musical expression. Whether it be fighting for rights, pushing social standards to the side, or coming together in a time of need, popular music has always been a way to unite Americans. Music bonds through what is felt, not what is seen. When through words and actions we fail, music speaks.

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