• Maggie Beal

Music Through the Years: Sixties Rock to Thousands Pop


Illustration by Geena San Diego

Music is and always has been something that brings people together, forms communities, and sparks new friendships. Music has changed a lot over the years with genres changing, and new ones forming. We can only imagine how much more it is going to change in the future. Because of this change, there has been much debate over which decade has had the “best music.” To show the difference of music, culture, impact, and much more throughout the decades, the comparison between music from the 1960s and music today will provide insight on just how different these two decades are. Not only has the instrumentation changed, but the culture surrounding the bands and artists from both ages too, impacting people from the generations in many ways.


In the 60s, the majority of music came from bands, mostly consisting of 3 to 5 men. There were some groups like The Ronettes, who sang songs like “Be My Baby” and “Baby, I Love You”, who broke the stereotype, three women of color who were universally known and popular in the United States. Their music was classified as R&B and soul music and held a special place in fans' hearts. There were also some solo artists such as Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix who had an immense impact on popular culture at the time. Both with very different types of music and genres, with Hendrix, focused on psychedelic rock and music with heavy emphasis on guitar, while Dylan’s music could be characterized as folk and even country.


Some more familiar names to you might recognize are; The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd, who could all fall under the genre of rock. These influential bands had an impact on pop culture, shaped and changed the 60s, and even shifted the way people dressed at that time. A new 1960s “boy band craze” from especially girls, started with Beatlemania which was was the intense fan frenzy surrounding The Beatles in the 1960s. Nowadays we can see similar occurrences with the frenzy around groups like One Direction and their dedicated fan base. K-pop fanbases are also recently some of the largest fan bases in not only the United States but also East Asia, where these groups originated from.


These days, popular culture is mostly distinguished by music like rap and pop. Back in “the day” The Beatles fell under the genre of pop because of what “pop” was back then. Popular culture, defined by the dictionary, is “modern popular culture transmitted through mass media and aimed particularly at younger people.” The 60s gave birth to a popular culture consumed in film and music that reflected the decade's social disturbance like the rise of Cold War politics, civil rights movements, student protests, and the Vietnam war which all affected American society and culture. Nowadays, pop culture is very much focused on social media, fashion, and celebrities' lives! Woohoo! I’m sure we can all agree that The Beatles and recent pop artists like Taylor Swift, for example, are two very different artists with two very different definitions of pop.


Another key concept to distinguish is the effect rap culture now has on pop culture. Rap culture and hip hop culture is something that was newly introduced and became popular in the 90s and has only grown over the years. Rap from the 90s was like poetic hip hop, giving rappers the ability to express their artistic side with words. Nowadays it’s much more focused on topics like drugs, violence, etc. Most of today’s rap is not as uplifting as 90s music. A lot of the recently produced rap songs are not lyrical or rhythmic, but instead, repetitive. Another popular rap genre is mumble rap which gained recognition on the app SoundCloud and features sentences and lyrics joined together to sound like a continuous word and phrase, not with much rhythm and also very repetitive. This new addition of rap and hip hop culture adds to the many differences between music from the 60s to music now.


A prominent difference in music now, versus music then is the number of bands and solo artists. Nowadays, solo artists dominate the charts, and it could be argued that bands don’t really exist, especially within the top 40 charts for example. Typically, bands would include about four musicians, one playing guitar, one on bass, one playing the drums, and either a pianist or a frontman singing. Some of the most recent “bands” we’ve seen are groups like One Direction, 5 Seconds of Summer, BTS, etc. We hardly see bands like The Beatles, where each member played an instrument, on the top charts, or playing at things like Coachella, music award shows, and more. These “boy bands” are typically all performers who dance and sing their songs on stage. This is a big difference from the 60s because usually at concerts and shows, the bands would just sing and play their songs with their instruments, which was enough to keep audiences happy and starstruck back in those simpler times. Nowadays, there is a lot that goes into just one concert, such as backup vocalists, backup dancers, opening acts, and over the top venues. All these elements put together make up for some of the best and most memorable nights of people’s lives.


With music constantly changing, we can only imagine the ways it will evolve further in the future and in upcoming years. The growing pool of new artists is at an all-time high, and will only continue to increase as our interests expand, making the developing music scene increasingly more exciting. However, the rise of resurfacing old trends from the past decades makes it possible to bring back music styles from those decades as well. If you’re interested in seeing how music from the 70s changed, ten years later, stay tuned for more articles comparing and contrasting other decade’s music to today’s written by yours truly!