Pop music has come a long way since its birth in the 1950s. Although many changes have taken place on the pop scene, this type of music remains a powerful force on the youth culture which consumes it. Pop is a genre that has clearly defined periods that also reflect the mood of the young people in this country; clearly the more society’s elders decry it as the root of all evil, the more pop music is cherished by our young people.
Pop music can be traced back to 1954, when Elvis Presley recorded “That’s All Right Mamma”--the first rock-n-roll song made by a white artist. The succeeding years were known the Golden decade of rock-n-roll and culminated in the Beatles’ performance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 and the beginning of Beatlemania. During the mid 50s to the mid 60s, Chuck Berry’s Maybellene was also recorded, Elvis joined the army and The Miracles’ “Shop Around” was released. The decade also saw Phil Spector transform the role of the record producer into that of a creative artist and James Brown perform live at the Apollo, recording the first million selling R&B album.
In the 1970’s pop music went through another transformation. In 1971, Marvin Gaye released “What’s Going On,” a soul concept album that addressed Vietnam, racism and inner city life, paving the way for the work of Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone. In the same year, King Tubby, a Jamaican record engineer, experimented with different ways to record a song and invented “dub,” the basis for all modern dance music. This innovation led directly to disco and performers such as Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor and the Bee Gees, whose “Saturday Night Fever” album became the bestselling soundtrack of all time.
The 1980’s began with the tragic murder of John Lennon, underscoring the fact that we could never return to the halcyon days of the 1950’s. However, pop music continued to thrive. During this period, Grandmaster Flash released “Adventures on the Wheels of Steel,” the first rap hit single, MTV was born and Michael Jackson came out with “Thriller,” the biggest selling pop album of all time. The decade also saw Madonna become a brand name with the release of “Material Girl” and the Live Aid Concert, the grandest philanthropic music event to date. The 1990’s saw the advent of boy bands, as well as the Spice Girls, a girl band that was the harbinger for “American Idol.”
Although technology has changed the ways in which we obtain our pop, this genre of music remains as vibrant today as ever. In 2003, a poll of American parents found that 53 percent agreed that ‘America’s youth finds more truth in Eminem than George Bush.’ Clearly, then, pop music has and will continue to have more of an impact on young people than even the officials they elect to public office.