"You Say You Want a Revolution": Rock & Roll's Voice in Society

Faculty Sponsor

Katharina Uhde


Arts and Sciences


Department of Music

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-23-2016


Disc jockey Alan Freed (1921-1965) was responsible for giving “rock ‘n’ roll” its name. Even though it was considered “loud noise,” this genre is a crucial part of American culture. Rock and roll had a big impact on race issues in America. But the interaction between people of different racial and cultural backgrounds also created conflicts. There were riots, and the music was banned in many places. There was also a war between the “young and rebellious” and the “older and classier” generation. Because rock and roll faced disapproval from many, it was looked down upon and was not considered music. Rock and roll “calmed down” around the late 1950s, but it had a revival during the 1960s. Rock and roll was the voice of the younger generation. It remained relevant and provided commentary on the Vietnam War, Communism, drugs, and politics. I will start my paper with a quick history of rock and roll and then concentrate on the different ways in which this genre had an impact on different issues in society. The aim of this research project is to explore the impact that rock and roll had in America since the birth of this genre. I present four representative pieces of different phases of rock and roll, which serve as case studies. These are: “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard (1955), “My Generation” by The Who (1965), “Revolution” by The Beatles (1968), and “War” by Edwin Starr (1970).

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Elena Cruz-Lopez is a junior music major and French minor. She is a member of the Symphony Orchestra and Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity. Elena is very passionate about music and her favorite genre is rock and roll, which inspired her to do a research paper on that topic. After graduating, she plans on studying musicology in graduate school to possibly become a professor of music history.