Rock-n-Roll and the Sixties – Description

Rock-n-Roll and the Sixties, an online Zoom minicourse by Dr. James Carter, Associate Professor of History, Drew. Wednesday mornings: 10:00 am to 12 pm:  June 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30. 

This course will survey the origin and development of rock and roll music in the United States.  Beginning around the early 20th century, it will explore the cultural, social, political history, manifest in early popular music, from Joe Hill’s songs on behalf of the labor struggles of Gilded Age America, and “Leadbelly’s” twelve-string virtuosity and song writing cataloging the struggles of African Americans in the Jim Crow south, to Woody Guthrie’s twangy rendering of the Depression era “dust bowl” and “Pretty Boy Floyd.” American popular music is both born of and embodied within the complicated fabric of American social, political, and cultural life.  Rock and Roll combined the various popular musical traditions and forms, most famously with the rise to stardom of Elvis Presley, to offer something both new and old for a rapidly expanding and changing audience.  This cultural phenomenon exploded in the 1960s in the U.S. and quickly came to embody and reflect the social, cultural, and political transformations of that era.  This course will focus on these developments and chart how this particular musical culture expanded in form and influence to cut across lines of race, class, and gender (blues, folk, R&B, punk, etc.) to both fascinate and bedevil critics, political leaders, and mothers and fathers everywhere.  

Dr. James Carter, an AssociateProfessor of U.S. History at Drew University, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Houston. He specializes in U.S. foreign policy, the U.S. since World War II and the Sixties. His book, Inventing Vietnam, is an analysis of the failed nation building effort undertaken by the U.S. in Vietnam and how that failure led to the war. He has also written on privatization of war and war profiteering, using the invasion of Iraq as a case study.  He has also published many reviews and essays.

His more recent research focuses on the Sixties in the U.S. and specifically the counterculture and advent of rock music culture, with a particular emphasis on the role of the college campus.  His article, “Campus Rock: Rock Music Culture on the College Campus during the Counterculture Sixties, 1967-8,” was published in The Journal of Popular Music Studies.  He has signed a contract with Rutgers University Press to publish a book on Rock and Roll in the Sixties. 

During the spring and summer 2019, Carter was awarded two Mellon Grants, and along with three research assistants, created an extensive GIS mapping project of rock music during the late sixties.  For more information: jmarloncarter.com.

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