Week 12. Sitcom Families: The Ricardos, Petries, & Mansons in the Atomic Coldwar
Week 12. Great Balls of Fire: American Westerns & Rock ‘n’ Roll
- Required reading: Jack Hamilton, Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination(Harvard University Press, 2016).
- Required watching: Film: John Ford, The Searchers (1956) [Available on campus in library & for purchase on most streaming devices]. This is the most famous American Western. Pay close attention to the cinematography. I also recommend this article.
- Required watching: *Bruce, Lenny, Blah Blah Blah and obscenity conviction clips (1961) [Audio, Youtube, below]
- Required watching: *TV Episode: Dick Van Dyke Show, Season 3, Episode 1 “That’s My Boy” Original Airdate September 25, 1963. [Streams on Netflix]
- *Clip, “America” from Robert Wise, West Side Story (1961) [Below]
Rosie the Riveter Propaganda Song from World War II
“America” from West Side Story
Lenny Bruce “Blah Blah Blah” comedy routine that leads to his arrest and obscenity charges (if you watch the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel this is the same Lenny Bruce)
Set List for Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination
This is the set list for Jack Hamilton’s book and song blurbs he provided for Harvard University Press to accompany the book you are reading.
Bob Dylan, “Blowin’ in the Wind”
Dylan’s 1963 composition, the melody of which is borrowed from a 19th-century anti-slavery song, became an anthem of the civil rights movement and arguably the most famous musical work of the 1960s folk revival.
Sam Cooke, “Bring it on Home to Me” (Live)
This electrifying live recording from Miami’s Harlem Square Club in 1963 finds Cooke in full-throated, gospel-infused showmanship.
Sam Cooke, “Blowin in the Wind” (Live)
This 1964 performance from Manhattan’s Copacabana, recorded and released just a few months before Cooke’s death, shows a completely different side of the singer’s versatility, as Cooke suavely reworks Dylan’s folksong into a gently swinging nightclub number.
Sam Cooke, “A Change is Gonna Come”
Cooke’s most famous composition and one of the most powerful musical works of the civil rights movement, “A Change is Gonna Come” was released in 1964 and directly inspired by both “Blowin’ in the Wind” and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone”
Widely regarded as one of the most important recordings in pop music history, Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” became a smash hit in summer of 1965 and decisively marked the singer’s transition from folk revivalist to full-blown rock icon.
Lonnie Donegan, “Rock Island Line”
Donegan’s frenetic version of Leadbelly’s classic “Rock Island Line” shot up the British charts in early 1956 and sparked what would come to be known as the “Skiffle Craze,” a brief, intense musical happening that had drastic ramifications on the future of rock and roll in the UK.
The Rolling Stones, “Not Fade Away”
One of the Rolling Stones’ earliest hits came in the form of this pounding 1964 cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” which finds them reworking Holly’s composition in the style of Bo Diddley.
Barrett Strong, “Money (That’s What I Want)”
The first single ever released by what would soon be known as Motown Records, this unbelievably infectious paean to capitalism is the perfect musical microcosm of Berry Gordy’s upstart label.
The Beatles, “Money (That’s What I Want)”
The last track on the Beatles’ second album, With the Beatles (1963), this snarling, punk-ish cover version of Strong’s hit offers an early indication of the massive impact of Gordy’s label on the Fab Four (the fourteen tracks on With the Beatles included three Motown covers).
The Beatles, “Rain”
Paul McCartney’s bass playing on this extraordinary 1966 b-side to “Paperback Writer” shows the remarkable influence of Motown session bass player James Jamerson on the Beatles’ mid-1960s music.
Marvin Gaye, “Yesterday”
Gaye’s stunning 1970 cover of one of the Beatles’ most famous compositions came at the cusp of a major turning point in the singer’s career; just a year later he would release his masterpiece, What’s Going On, the last major Motown album recorded in Detroit.
Stevie Wonder, “We Can Work It Out”
Similar to Gaye’s “Yesterday,” Wonder’s 1970 recording of the Beatles’ 1965 hit completely reimagines the original song and foreshadows Wonder’s own emergence as arguably the most influential recording artist of the 1970s.
Aretha Franklin, “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)”
The Queen of Soul, in all her splendor: Franklin’s breakthrough hit for Atlantic Records in 1967 heralded the arrival of a transformational talent onto the landscape of 1960s pop.
Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, “Piece of My Heart”
Joplin’s incendiary version of “Piece of My Heart,” a song originally recorded by Aretha Franklin’s sister Erma in 1967 and remade by Joplin in 1968, was one of Joplin’s biggest hits and remains one of her most iconic performances.
Dusty Springfield, “Son of a Preacher Man”
The British “blue-eyed soul” star Springfield’s evocative rendition of John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins’ composition, the biggest hit from her classic 1968 album Dusty in Memphis, is one of the more beguiling and beautiful recordings of late-60s R&B.
Aretha Franklin, “Son of a Preacher Man”
Hurley and Wilkins had originally written “Son of a Preacher Man” for Franklin, who turned it down; after Springfield had a hit with it, in 1970 Aretha recorded it herself in a churning, gospel-infused style.
Aretha Franklin, “Eleanor Rigby”
Franklin’s 1970 recording of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” transforms the song from an elegiac, string-octet dirge into a rollicking, bluesy statement of feminist resilience.
Jimi Hendrix, “All Along the Watchtower”
Hendrix’s 1968 recording of Bob Dylan’s composition is one of the guitarist’s most famous performances and one of the most iconic musical markers of Vietnam-era tumult and dread.
Jimi Hendrix, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”
A dazzling display of instrumental and studio virtuosity and the closing track on Hendrix’s 1968 masterpiece Electric Ladyland, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” is an apocalyptic blues that showcases the nearly unfathomable dimensions of Hendrix’s musical abilities.
Jimi Hendrix, “Machine Gun”
Recorded live at Madison Square Garden on the very cusp of the 1970s, “Machine Gun” is one of Hendrix’s most explicitly political compositions and one of the more powerful pieces of anti-war music to emerge from the Vietnam era.
The Rolling Stones, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
After an ill-fated flirtation with psychedelia, 1968’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” breathed new life into the Rolling Stones, and remains one of the most influential rock and roll singles of all time.
The Rolling Stones, “Street Fighting Man”
One of the standout tracks on the Stones’ 1968 album Beggars Banquet, “Street Fighting Man” transports Martha and the Vandellas’ 1964 classic “Dancing in the Street” into the global unrest of the summer of 1968.
The Rolling Stones, “Gimme Shelter”
This 1969 duet between Mick Jagger and the great black female vocalist Merry Clayton is one of the most visceral depictions of war and terror in all of popular music.
The Rolling Stones, “Brown Sugar”
The critic Robert Christgau once described this 1971 hit as “a rocker so compelling it discourages exegesis”; stunning, wild, and outlandishly offensive, it is perhaps the quintessential song of the Rolling Stones’ long and complicated career.
Jimi Hendrix performs “All Along the Watchtower” (1968)
Jimi Hendrix performs the Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock (August 1969)
Guided Primary Source Discussion Questions
1) Here is a link to the lyrics to “All Along the Watchtower.” What elements of the language and imagery do you think evoke the danger and uncertainty of war? And what elements of Hendrix’s own musical performance do you think help emphasize these themes?
2) People often forget that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is actually a song about war. What are some of the moments in Hendrix’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that seem to sonically evoke this?
3) Many people have described Hendrix’s performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a work of protest music, but Hendrix himself often characterized it as a work of patriotism. But it can be both! How do you think patriotism and protest are connected to one another, both in this piece of music and also in general?
Prof. Jack Hamilton on Hendrix during Vietnam
Classic American Rock ‘n’ Roll
Weekly Mini Assignments
- For extra credit: Watch and write a one page response to the Oscar-winning documentary film Morgan Neville, Twenty Feet from Stardom (2013). Your response should discuss how the film intersects with major class themes. This film is available on Netflix.