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Rock-n-roll and the use of drugs in the period between 1955 and 1966 - Essay Example

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The time period between 1955 and 1965 can be seen as one of the most crucial for the evolution of rock and roll music within popular culture…
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Rock-n-roll and the use of drugs in the period between 1955 and 1966
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Rock-n-roll and the use of drugs in the period between 1955 and 1966

As the counterculture began to emerge, however, an associated interest with mind altering drugs began to be a part of the experience. While the era of drug use and free thinking is often thought of as the 1960s, the counterculture began much earlier, stemming from the gravitation of certain individuals to jazz and folk music which was often expressed by those who were calling themselves beatniks and bohemians. The period of time between 1955 and 1966 were pivotal, however, as the course of social change also saw changes in the way in which intellectualism was pursued, leading to the heavier use of drugs during that time period. In 1966, Grace Slick wrote one of the more iconic songs that projected the connection between literacy, rock and roll, and the drug culture. Referencing Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland she wrote “One pill makes you larger/One pill makes you small/ And the ones that mother gives you/Don’t do anything at all/Go ask Alice/When she’s ten feet tall” (Farber, 2007, p. 62). At the same time, there has been a struggle between embracing the effects of drug use and the consequences of indulging in drugs with too much intensity. Rock and roll lifestyles are both filled with the hedonism of sex and drugs and written to reflect the spiral downward that is taken through the ’looking glass’ when drug abuse takes over one’s life. One of the more famous quotes about drug use and the early years of rock and roll came from David Crosby who said “if you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there”, intimating the close connection between the use of drugs, forgetfulness during use and the revolutions of the 1960s which included a high level of drug use (Farber, 2007, p. 63). ...
63). Drug abuse and alcoholism as it was connected to musicians did not begin in the 1960s. Where there are high levels of artistic emotions combined with the pressures of success, drug use and alcohol abuse were often involved. However, cultural groups that specifically aligned themselves with the use of drugs was a relatively new phenomenon in the 1950s. The type of groups that were defined by a sort of intellectualism that was following some of the great writers of the time, as well as following paths towards hedonism and self indulgences were ’beatniks’ and ’bohemians’ of the 1950s. The music of jazz and folk music, two genres that helped to form the structures of rock and roll, were a type of music that drew people towards it that often indulged in drug use. According to Weinstein (1999), “the initial sparks were struck in the 1940s that set the counterculture ablaze with drugs in the 1960s” (p. 169). When Ardous Huxley wrote Doors of Perception in 1954, the counterculture was motivated to seek the perfect high, that state in which transcendence had occurred in which the promise of drug use was finally fulfilled. Seeking to fulfill some sort of intellectual imperative, the book written by Huxley gave a framework of understanding about the nature of mind altering drug use and the advantages of what one can learn from having taken mind altering drugs. Huxley (2009) describes what Spanish conquerors saw when they encountered Native Americans. He states “they eat a root which they call peyote, and which they venerate as though tit was a deity”(p. 9). The book became centering piece of pop culture from which the pursuit of the ultimate spiritual experience was sought after which included high ... Read More
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