Comparison between Music and Style in 1950’s and Music and Styles in 1970’s


Music is believed to have been in existence even before man was. From the definition of music which gives it the property of a vocal or instrumental sound, music is not only realized from well defined compositions of human intellect but also from natural sounds. Music that is organized and produced by man has also been in existence for as long as six centuries within which a lot of changes and developments have been realized.

This paper seeks to discuss the difference in music and styles that were realized in the 1950’s and the 1970’s. The paper will research on the types and styles of music as was realized in the two periods of time as well as the features that characterized music in the two time frames.

Music in the 1950’s

The history of the music industry has been characterized by a lot of changes due to adaptation of a variety of cultures along generations. This has led to identifiable classification of different types of music within particular time durations and generations. This has for example been one of the differences that are realized with respect to the music of the 1950s and the music that was realized in the 1970s. Such differences are not limited to the two decades alone but is a well spread phenomenon across time.

The decade of 1950s experienced a variety of music styles and types that were not available in earlier years. Emergence of new music genres as well as music artists was realized that distinguished the generation from its elder generations. Though the success which was realized in the music industry was due to the predevelopments of earlier years, there was a significant difference in the music of the decade. Two categories of music were introduced during this period.

The rock and roll music traces its roots of origin to this time period while country music got more of a boost in popularity during the period. A number of new characters were also realized in the music industry. People such as Hank Williams are specifically identified with the decade for their active involvement in shaping the music industry in the decade (Thepeople 1).

Development of rock music is particularly associated wit Carl Perkins as the founder. His song, “blue sued shoes” that was produced in the year 1955 and which influenced music fans at the time was the first to be realized under the later to be identified rock music. Though identified as a new type of music in the period, Perkins was not entirely original in the establishment of this type of music. Rock is identified to be an integration of some two previously realized music types.

Perkins in his 1955 production considered features of both country music as well as R & B that had been in existence to offer audience an intermediary. He by this approach not only produced an appealing song to his then audience, but established a different classification of music that developed him as one of the most recognized artists of the century.

The rock and roll music then attracted a number of artists that further added its value. Elvis Presley is for instance reported to have made significant establishment of the rock musing following his venture into the world of rock. Even if his success was realized in other types of music apart from rock, his involvement promoted the type of music among audience (Thepeople 1).

The particular music style as was adopted in the 1950’s was also a clear transition from the tradition of the previous decade. The introduction of the rock and roll music was particularly popular due to its features that addressed the ineffectiveness of previous music styles to capture the entire universe of audience.

The music that was realized in the former decade that even transcended into the early years of the 1950’s was decisive to particular audience and thus was limited to only some races. This however changed with extra features that were realized in music.

The background beat was for instance created to be captivating in its danceable nature. Youths from a variety of races, unifying the blacks and the whites contrary to the former bland and ballads styles that were geared towards the black population were drawn into the music style. Former music styles were also out of taste for the youths as they were majorly regarded to be for adults and especially of the black population. This was because the nature of the music was easily identifiable with the nature of lives of the group.

The youth might not have been into the music due to the fact that they were outdated with the population that had grown out of the adolescence and the generally youthful population. New wave was then initiated with an incorporation of features that was appealing to both the adolescents and even the older population. The new music style was also presented in social places in which the audience was majorly adult.

There was also an associated relationship between the established music style and racism that was highly experienced during the period. Prior to the 1950’s change of music, the blues together with rhythm and blues were characteristically associated with the black population with respect to both musicians and even producers. Even the music industry was seemingly affected by the racial discrimination that was felt through segregation (Info 1).

Some of the major themes of the decade’s music were on topics such as “school, cars, summer vacation, parents, and, most important, young love” which were majorly based on adolescents (Info 1).

Its background was also specifically identified with instruments like “guitar, bass, piano, drums and saxophone” to deliver its captivating background that was also particularly identified to have “heavy beat, loudness, self absorbed lyrics, and raving delivery” (Info 1). It was also specifically identified with a level of adolescents’ rebellion over demands from adults (Info 1).

Characteristics of music in the 1950s

Features in music were transformed in the period with the adoption of new music styles. The nature of the new style had deviated from the previously realized divisive music that raised controversy across races and was in most instances full of racial attacks.

This former feature of music limited the audience to racial category with the blacks considerably having their types of music and the whites similarly enjoying their own brand with attacks and criticism from either side. The subject matter of the new music was based on the topic of love and romance among adolescents, a fact that must have swept the age group into following the music.

Sensitivity of the theme to human feelings and emotion can be identified as one of the factors that greatly diversified the audience to the music styles that was positively received by both the older generation as well as the white community. The rhythm of the music was also simple and kept on the background with a very simple melody that the audience could master very fast.

Country music that was equivalently felt at the time was also characterized by influential rhythm and the message content. Even though the theme was based on love, it was not particularly identified with the young population as it had transcended for the then elderly group. In a country music presentation, a lead singer would be supported with about four people in a presentation (Spider, 1). The decade experienced artists such as “Little Richard, Jerry Lewis, Hank Williams” and Elvis Presley (Thepeople 1).

Music in the 1970s

The music that was realized in the 1970s was a transition between the styles that were realized in its previous decade and the change that was to follow in the next decade. A continuous transition in music can then be associated with the period to express the general trend of evolution in the music industry.

Contrary to initially realized rebellion in the 1960s in the industry, the productions of the 1970s were full of messages of happiness and peace. Controversies that had been realized in the society also created the need for a type of music that could relax people in public places.

One of the significant music styles that were realized in the decade was the disco that was a transition from the previous decade’s styles. Disco music did not however last long as it was characterized by lack of thematic message and was mainly motivated by financial gains. Another style of music that was realized in the 1970s was the progressive rock music that was an integration of the initially realized styles of rock music with other styles such as classical music.

The development of the incorporated style was accompanied by increased length in time of songs. Live performances to audience also characterized the decade. Contrary to the disco music, the progressive rock music was presented in albums, collections of songs and each album was identifiable with a single theme. Punk rock was another genre of music that was realized in the 1970s.

The difference in style of the progressive rock from other forms of music, especially the ones that were associated to rock music was its instrumentals that were realized to be harder. The drums and the guitars were also identified to be heavier as compared to other music styles.

The founders of the style however did not last for a long time but managed to produce some hit songs that spurred rebellion. Their fall was attributed to consumption of drugs that resulted in the group being disbanded. Music in the decade also realized elements of politics as it was used by artists to criticize the political class for their dissatisfaction (Thepeople 1).

The music industry is also reported to have developed a level of dynamism in which drastic changes could be easily felt in the system. The disco music is for instance realized to have changed its face with respect to the topic of race. On its conception, the music genre was majorly aligned to the black population but transformed itself to capturing all races.

A wide level of diversification of rock music was similarly realized in the decade that led to the establishment of subgenres. Progressive rock is majorly identified to have adopted and imported styles from other music genres such as jazz music and had an improved instruments basis. Urban rock was also a realized subgenre. Some of the musicians that were significantly felt in the decade include Elton John and James Taylor among others (Classic 1).

It was during this decade that music was realized to have adopted a commercially oriented mentality that was not previously realized. Though the normalcy of production was retained, there was an instigated trend of publicizing the music products with the aim of generating higher revenues.

A level of regulation in mass media with respect to music was also felt in the 1970s. Contrary to former periods in which presenters were allowed the freedom to choose and play any music that they opted for, regulations were made by radios to outline specific songs that their presenters could play to the public. This was driven by the level of controversies and rebellion that was being realized from music.

The stations that were aiming at keeping their audience therefore regulated their presentations to ensure that they did not offend any of their listeners and at the same time strike the balance to capture as wide an audience as possible. Commercialization of music was similarly realized with the change in presentations that shifted to sales initiatives to promote music products and music performances in large places that could attract and accommodate a large number of audiences.

Music producers particularly employed extensive marketing strategies that were primarily meant to promote their sales for higher financial benefits. According to Campbell Michael, the 1970s decade was a period more development into the music that already existed. Such was the improvements that were realized with respect to rock music.

Though rock music was a particularly established genre in the 1970s, this time duration was not its inception. It was a music of the earlier generations that was improvised to fit into the changing entertainment needs of the society. This was the basis of the development of different categories of rock music during the period (Campbell 237- 245).

Reggae, a music genre as developed from Jamaica was also a realization in the 1970s. It was started in Jamaica by citizens of African origin and gained a racially diversified perspective as it quickly spread and was accepted by other races. The music genre was for example realized in the United Kingdom in the same decade.

The style that was primarily based on the political theme of colonization was also characterized by a significant incorporation of features of other genres of music such as the R & B. Like in the United States, influence of the already existing music genres was a key tool to the development of the reggae.

Rock and blue music are for example reported to have been imported into Jamaica from the United States and significantly incorporated into the country’s music system. The rock and blue then formed the basis on which reggae was founded, again developing the concept of improvement of existing music of time. The theme of the reggae genre as was portrayed by its original artists was that of peace and unity, a campaign that was effectively undertaken by Bob Marley (Campbell 260- 265).

Between the 1950s and 1970s

The decade between the 1950s and the 1970s acted more like a transition to the music industry. The artists that dominated the industry towards the end of the 1950s were for example still felt it the beginning of the 1960s. The pop music was also still equivalently felt with the difference that the old generation that earlier dominated it had been replaced by a younger group that injected more talent and expertise in the production and presentation.

The period also realized the transformation from the rock and roll type of music which was a development of the 1950s to the rock type that was a practiced in the 1970s. Political factors that surrounded the society as identified by the way in which the government treated its citizens and the harsh reaction that civil rights activists were accorded by government forces transformed the music industry into a voice for the people.

There was also an external input from some musicians who landed in the United States from Britain bringing with them some influence into the then existing American music. It is actually claimed that the visitors overshadowed American musicians at the time and a recovery to native dominance in the music industry was only felt when the British visitors left the industry.

Their influence however remained to be permanently felt in the American music. The 1960s also realized the developments in the music industry with respect to the instruments that were used. Musicians particularly tried to employ some instruments against the will of their audience, occasionally facing resistance.

The music industry was also transformed from the concert performance to the studio production from where music would be sold to audience. In the year 1966 for example, one of the singing groups stopped their live performances to the audience and resorted to studio recording. Transitions were realized throughout the decade with the developments in rock music starting towards the end of the decade (Madani 1).

The music industry also attained its voice to the people in the decade that extended to parts of the 1970s. Influence that music had gained over people’s lives allowed it access to people’s feelings and emotions and shaped behavior.

Dressing cords were effectively changed among both men and women to conform to the identities that had been realized from music. Elements such as hair styles and specially designed clothes were used. Motives such as denouncing violence, engagements in drugs and freedom with respect to sexuality were also realized as a result of developments in the music industry (Solcom 1).


The history of music had been rich in earlier centuries with various transformations from time to time. The music industry as realized in the 1950s for example reveals a period in which music was already classified into genres with artists specializing in particular types of music. The 1950s was for example realized to be rich in genres such as rock and roll, blues and rhythms and country music among others. With the emergence of the new decade, transformation was realized with the introduction of these new styles as music heats.

The music that was realized in the 1970s was also characterized by a level transformation in music. New developments such as subgenres of rock music were realized together with transition from rock n roll music into rock. A lot of incorporation of talents and skills was also realized in the decade with respect to music genres. Music also gained a direct link with people.

Similarities in the two periods

A review of music as was realized in the two durations reveals some level of similarities. The transformational trend in music is revealed in the music industry with respect to styles and social impacts. Incorporation of features from different genres to create new ones is also a common factor. The periods are linked with transformations that were realized in the 1960s.


The two periods of time are at the same time characterized with a number of differences that include the level of technology in the music industry. Studio recording for example was a practice of the 1970s that had been applied in the 1950s. Use of particular instruments also established a difference in the two periods with electric guitar being used in the 1970 and not in the 1950s.

The use of music as a tool to communication and social influence was also a development in the 1970s that had not been realized in the 1950s. Another realized difference is the theme that dominated music in the two durations with messages of love realized in the 1950s contrary to messages of peace that majorly dominated the 1970s.


History of the music industry has been characterized with a gradual revolution that has over time established difference in types and style of music. These changes have however been on improvement of features of music through integration of existing styles for the establishment of new ones and developments in technology.

Works Cited

Campbell, Michael. Popular Music in America: And the Beat Goes on. New York, NY: Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.

Classic. 70s Music. Classic, 2010. Web. July 2, 2011.

Info. The 1950s- Bill Haley and rock ‘n’ roll. Infoplease, 2011. Web. July 2, 2011.

Madani, Jack. Pop and rock music in the 60s, a brief history. Spectropop, n.d. Web. July 2, 2011.

Solcom. Music changes the world. 1960s and 1970s- A time of change. Solcomhouse, n.d. Web. July 2, 2011.

Spider. Characteristics of the 50s music styles. George Town College, n.d. Web. July 2, 2011

Thepeople. Music played in the 1950’s popular music from the 50s. The People History, 2011. Web. July 2, 2011.