Influence of Anti-establishment Views on Rock and Roll Society

Rock and Roll is a type of music that emerged around 1955 in America. Since then, rock music has been influenced by culture, musical traditions, and other types of music such as blues, western electronic music and gospels, popular African and Asian music. Rock music means music styles that are more influenced by the white musicians. Among the most popular musical instrument in Rock music is the electric bass guitar. Other instruments include the electric piano, the drum kits, synthesizer, cymbals, tom-toms and the bass drums. The first rock music emerged in 1950 and was mostly influenced by the American South. Music, including rock and roll music, was one of the ways that American’s aired out their views. Despite the fact that rock music had a negative influence on the behavior of young people, music can be one of the greatest methods of expressing and airing out views. The music was greatly influenced by the then social and political situation of the society. In the quest to call people to action, and to address social issues directly as commentary, rock and roll music greatly changed its theme. The experiences, culture, actions and social sphere influenced the dancing, the lyrics as well as the participants.  A good example is in the Vietnam War where the soldiers would sing the rock and roll music, as a way of expressing their dissatisfaction in the war (Friedlander and Miller, 1996).

Among the popular song was “Liberty Song”. The song became a widespread hit in the American colonies and was published by Boston Gazzete. The song was a clear call to action as defiance to the legislature by Massachusetts to impose duties and taxes to England. It can, therefore, be argued that the then economic and political condition of the colonies affected the themes of rock and roll music. More songs were written to ridicule political leaders. Political themes became the order of music and the styles, lyrics, and instruments were danced to the political tune.  

Additionally, rock and roll music was encouraged by the current condition where teens wanted to liberate their minds from the captivity of their parents. Most teens felt that they were old enough to think and take care of themselves and not remain grounded to captivity in their rooms. One such song is “In My Room” where the singer narrates his room as the place where he flees his fears, worries and cries. In the period between 1955 and 1966, there was widespread defiance by the young people. According to Smith (2011), young people escaped from their parents’ homes in their minds long before they do it using cars. When the teens feel that they are old enough, the next expression is as in the lyrics of the song “I’m Bugged at My Ol’ Man” (Smith, 2011). The narrator talks of a teen who was confined to his room by his father. He was prevented from surfing, listening to music and even calling his girlfriend. In short, he had been deprived of all elements of teenage life. He takes his room as a haven of cries, sighing and dreaming. He flees from the troubles of the world to his room. The song “California Girls” also supports the escapade behavior. A myth also exists that California girls are better, and this promotes the escapade behavior. The liberation thus became a widespread theme among the rock and roll artists (Phillips, 2012).

Finally, the most important influence that the anti-establishment views has on rock music is the rhythms, energy and screaming of the guitars of rock music. This vigorous mode of rock and roll music perfectly reflected the chaos and confusion of the jungle warfare and firefight battles. It also demonstrated defiance on the wars that America was waging against Vietnam. Arising from the fact that rock and roll music was the most popular genre at that time, the youth and the American soldiers adopted these songs. The defiant songs became the order of music in both America and Vietnam. The theme of rock and roll was thus re-directed and used to air anti-establishment views (Phillips, 2013).

Indeed, while some popular rock and roll lyrics encouraged escapist mindset, promoted idealized American values and called people to actions, some of the anti-establishment minds were negative. Some rock and roll music was influenced by the stereotypical gender roles. One such song is “California Girls” that represented typically all unnatural and stereotypical themes. The anti-establishment views greatly influenced rock music in terms of rhythms, energy and screaming of the guitars. This vigorous mode of rock and roll music can be said to perfectly reflect the chaos and confusion of the jungle warfare and firefight battles. Moreover, the escapade behavior that ensued at that time greatly influenced the tone, themes and lyrics of rock and roll music. The lyrics of the song “I’m Bugged at My Ol’ Man” proves the influence of the anti-establishment views on the rock and roll music.


Friedlander, P., & Miller, P. (1996). Rock and roll: A social history (p. 184). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Phillips, R. (2012). Rock and roll fantasy: The reality of going from garage band to superstardom (Vol. 35). Springer Science & Business Media.

Phillips, R. (2013). Rock and Roll Fantasy? New York, NY: Springer.

Smith, M. J. (2011). “Spirit of America”: Socio-cultural and gender issues in early Beach Boys songs (Doctoral dissertation, California State University, Long Beach).

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