The Fifties Rock the 20th Century
Posted May 7, 2002 - Sheree Homer - firstname.lastname@example.org
The fabulous fifties had a great influence
on the 20th Century, because the styles of music and fashion have lasted throughout the years. They
tend to reappear with each new generation. Television and the movies also were influential in society.
I would like to express the way in which these things have impacted our lives. If something has
longevity, then there must be something good about it as far as our culture is concerned.
One might say that the 1950s were a
springboard to the sexual revolution, when teenagers were coming of age. The music, movies, and
fashion gave them the chance to vent their frustrations and develop a unique sense of style, something
they could call their own. It was definitely an age of rebellion.
Many of the movies of the 1950s
exemplified the times of rebellion. Peyton Place, Rebel Without a Cause, The Wild One, and Jailhouse
Rock were just a few of the movies that teenagers seemed to identify with. Marlon Brando and James Dean
were their heroes, because they personified everything that they wanted to be. They helped to give
reality to their dreams and exemplified teenage rebellion. Marlon Brando's character of Johnny in
The Wild One was asked "what you rebelling against Johnny," and his response was "what do you got"?
Marlon Brando and James Dean were two stars
in demand for movie magazine interviews. Hedda Hopper, a famous gossip columnist for the magazines,
always got her scoop. Movie magazines became very popular as teenagers wanted to read about their
favorite stars. They wanted to know what made the stars so alluring. Photoplay and Motion Picture
exploded in popularity. According to the book, Time Life - The Good Old Days, teenagers had more money
in the 1950s than ever before, so they made up for a large portion of the buying community.
As far as television goes, we still
enjoy watching reruns from the golden era of television. I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners, two
classic television shows, will never go out of style. Through these sitcoms, we could learn to
laugh at ourselves. Who can forget Lucy's zany stunts or how her husband Ricky always ended up
giving in after his refusal to do what she wanted or Ralph Kramden's boisterous voice yelling at
his wife Alice: "one of these days Alice, one of these days, pow right in the kisser"?
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
was also popular with both parents and teenagers alike. Parents liked the family atmosphere, and
the teenagers were drawn to the Nelson's youngest son, Ricky, because of his good looks and rock
and roll music. Many of his songs were included in the episodes. According to Billboard Magazine,
his first song, "I'm Walkin'," which was sung on the show, was very popular, selling one million
copies in its first week alone. The Nelsons helped to make rock and roll mainstream and a household
name. Parents learned to accept it because the Nelsons accepted it.
There were also wonderful game shows
on television. You Bet Your Life, I've Got a Secret, and What's My Line? are just a few of
the shows that were popular at the time. We can still watch Groucho on reruns with his wild
brand of humor. On one of the episodes of You Bet Your Life, one guest brandished a bottle of
Teddy Bear perfume from her purse and squirted it all over Groucho. She was a big Elvis fan
and even had a lock of his hair and his famous red and white cowboy outfit from his movie,
Loving You. She said that she would not part with it for a million bucks.
Also, television brought a whole
new way to how we did things. People now knew about their city and the world in a profound way.
By seeing the images visually, television gave us a new perspective on life. Television had an
impact on movies for a while as more people stayed home, but movies regained popularity with
the invention of 3-D and drive-ins. Television allowed for people to see their favorite stars
weekly, and it was cheaper than the movies.
With the advent of television,
commercials soon followed. There needed to be sponsors to pay for the programming. Advertisers
sold their products through commercials. They were usually endorsed by movie stars or sport stars,
which helped to boost sales. Groucho Marx advertised for the DeSoto Plymouth on his You Bet Your
Life, the Nelsons advertised for Kodak camera on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and Lucille
Ball and Desi Arnaz advertised for Pall Mall cigarettes on I Love Lucy. Famous names and faces
helped to sell the product.
Television also changed the way our
presidential elections were held. Debates between the republican and democratic candidate could
now be seen and not just heard. Their personalities and looks had a major impact on how we voted
in the election. These debates still occur today. There were commercials to promote the candidates
as well, such as the catchy slogan "I Like Ike" for Eisenhower's election.
When it came to music of the 1950s,
it changed dramatically from beginning to end. From 1950 to 1955, crooners and vocal groups were
popular such as Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Perry Como, The Four Lads, and The Platters. Then came
the explosion of rock and roll with people like Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, and Chuck Berry. True
rock and roll ended in 1959 with the death of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens,
Little Richard entering the ministry, Chuck Berry going to prison, Jerry Lee Lewis and his scandalous
marriage, and Elvis entering the Army.
Teen idols were especially popular
in the late 50s. Ricky Nelson, Fabian, Paul Anka, Bobby Darin, Tab Hunter, and Frankie Avalon
were some of the girls' favorites. Connie Francis, Annette, and Brenda Lee were some of the guys'
favorites. Most of these teen idols got their start on American Bandstand hosted by Dick Clark.
This was a musical program popular with teens in the 50s. It had popular music of the day, dancers,
and musical acts.
Rock and roll remains very popular to
this day. There are many radio stations that play the oldies. Many musicians of today explain
that their influences were 50s icons, especially Elvis. He has been the biggest influence.
According to Legends, a program on VH1, one of Bruce Springsteen's biggest influences was Elvis.
His mother adored Elvis and would play his music. Bruce decided early on that he wanted to be a
Elvis was highly influential because
of his unique blend of gospel, country and western, and rhythm and blues. He kicked the door open
for many artists and allowed black music to become mainstream. Blues and rhythm and blues
artists became better known because he covered their tunes (singing songs that were popularized
by other singers). His music introduced a whole new sound that was never heard before, rockabilly
and later rock and roll. His moves also helped to express the feelings he had when singing, as
he often said: "If you like rock and roll music, you can't help but move to it." All of his
insecurities were lost when performing on stage. Elvis not only revolutionalized music but also
Jerry Lee Lewis was a wild performer.
His song, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" caused quite a stir within the framework of society. He even
knew how to play the piano with his feet, which really stirred up the crowd.
Little Richard wowed the crowd with his
wild clothes, his high-pitched shrieks, and his makeup. "Tutti Frutti" was a big hit for him as kids
could dance to it.
Hairstyles that were big with the
teenagers were crew cuts or ducktails for the guys, and ponytails for the girls. Guys liked the
ducktails because then they could look like Elvis and that was a sure way to get a girl. The guys
wanted to look like him, and the girls wanted to be with him.
White bucks, saddle shoes, and penny
loafers were popular with both the guys and girls. The girls wore scarves around their necks,
poodle skirts, and sweaters. The guys wore blue jeans, white T-shirts, and leather jackets.
There was also a glamorous side to
fashion, which was represented by Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. They wore fancy full-skirted
dresses, spiked heels, and lots of jewelry and makeup. They had well coiffed hair. Every young girl
hoped to be as beautiful and elegant as they were.
The cars of the 1950s were probably
the most stylish and elegant we ever had. Lincolns, Cadillacs, and Chevrolets had lots of chrome
and big fins that really caught the eye. The youth loved the cars as they experienced many
things with them: sex, drag racing, and scooping the loop. Guys especially liked to have hot
cars that moved fast. Gas was cheap back then, so operating a big car was no problem.
The 1950s had a huge influence in
so many areas, too numerous to mention. Unfortunately, I was born too late to have experienced the
50s first hand, but my mom has introduced me to the era. She is reliving her teenage years all
over again as she did not realize how great everything was back then. I, myself, would have loved
to live in the 1950s as the cars, clothes, music, and movies are my favorites of any era. The
fashion is still seen with the styles of today, and the music will always thrive.
Parents did not accept the rock and
roll revolution right away but gradually learned to accept it. Their children were growing up,
and rock and roll seemed to be a mainstay in society. The skeptics were wrong, and the teenagers
were right, as rock and roll and culture of the 1950s never died: "Long Live Rock and Roll."
I ALSO WROTE THIS ESSAY for a contest they held on atributetoaking yahoo
group. I ended up winning first prize and won an Elvis collector's
plate. It is guitar shaped with Elvis from Aloha in Hawaii in the
body of it. Hope you enjoy reading it and please let me know what you
think. Thanks. Sheree - homersm2001@y
"AIN'T THAT LOVING YOU ELVIS" - By Sheree Homer
My love for Elvis sprang
from my mom, who was playing his music for me while I was still in the womb. She
said she would play his music, and I would "dance" around in her stomach. I do not know what my life
would have been like if she was not my mom. Without her, I might not have known Elvis and certainly would
not have known any of the other artists that I love from the 1950s. It is all thanks to her that I know
and love their music. I will never be able to repay her for that wonderful gift she has given me.
Music, especially Elvis, is an essential part of who I am. There is not a day that goes by that I do not
listen to his music. I always have it on in the morning as it gets me in an uplifting good mood. Elvis
makes the day brighter. To quote my friend Lacy, "Elvis is the cure all pill." If you are feeling
depressed, crank up an Elvis cd. You will feel better instantly. His beautiful voice puts sunshine in your
When I was younger, I was embarrassed
to tell anyone that I was an Elvis fan for fear that they would not understand and make fun of me.
By them not knowing and not letting me be who I was, they did not know the
true me and were not really my friends. However, I have matured through the years and do not allow others to tell me who and who not to like anymore. I am my
own person now, and anyone who knows me knows how much I love Elvis. Once I start talking about him, there is
no stopping me. He is my favorite subject. However, sometimes my conversations have led to disagreement. I
have gotten into arguments with Beatle fans about who was best, Elvis or The Beatles. I always have to have
the last word and give reason why indeed Elvis is the best singer and performer of all-time. The Beatles may
have had more #1 songs, but Elvis has had more of an influence. Ask any musician, including The Beatles,
and they will tell you that Elvis is his/her influence.
Elvis' influence on my life arises from the fact that
we have a lot in common with each other. He loved his mother more than anything in the world and wanted to
make sure she had everything she ever wanted. Her happiness was his happiness. The first thing he did
when he got rich was buy his parents a house and a car/cadillac. That was his dream to be able to have
enough money to be able to buy them a house. This is my goal too. My mom has lived in the same house since
1961. We once owned it but because my dad was off work so much, we lost it. We are now paying high rent for
the house we used to own because we cannot afford to move. I hope to one day soon be able to buy my mom a
beautiful house where she can display all her collections and have room for everything, as of right
now we are very crowded. I would like to be able to give back to my mom as she has given me so much.
I feel Elvis obtained the American Dream, going from
a poor country boy to a wealthy famous man. I too know what it is like to be poor and to go without and to be
picked on by others. I would like to be famous and to be remembered, but not so famous that you have no
privacy. I bet he would have given up all the wealth and fame for just a little privacy. He could not go
anywhere without causing havoc.
I never realized there are so many Elvis fans out
there, and all are very nice. "I have never met a kinder, gentler group of people" to quote Elvis. He
would be surprised to know how many people love him and are keeping his legacy alive almost 25 years after
his death. When he started singing, I bet he would never have guessed the profound impact he would have
on millions of people for generations to come. We all were happier knowing him. As long as we listen to his
music and watch his movies, he will never die. Long live the King of Rock and Roll!
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