Domestic Life in the 1950s

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Describe the rise of Rock 'n' Roll and explain why it was so popular among teens of the 1950's.

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Young people in the 1950s embraced rock and roll because it seemed to them a form of rebellion during a time that emphasized conformity. Rock and roll, often disparaged as "jungle music" by anxious parents, was an interesting case of cultural cross-pollenation, as rhythms associated with African-American music, and indeed many black performers, caught on with white teens even as their parents, and in many cases, they themselves, expressed concerns about integration in schools and other public places. While in many cases this entailed the co-opting of black music by white performers, it eventually led to the popularity of African-American artists as well. Popular disc jockey Alan Freed, who is credited with coining the actual term "rock and roll" described the appeal of this new music to young people:

The world at large helped it a great deal. It was like making a cake, the ingredients were there, they were just waiting to be put together and accepted. The oven was being pre-heated at a high temperature, meaning, our children had a lot of emotion in them but no way to express it. Thus came "The Big Beat" and a way of letting go. A loud trend was born.. The parade was started … 

Rock and roll also caught on due to changing technology, and changes in entertainment in general. Radio, under threat from the new medium of television, sought dynamic new programming to boost its relevance, and the new music fit the bill perfectly. Television itself proved to be an important vehicle for the popularization of rock and roll, as variety shows, most famously American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show, regularly booked young telegenic rock and roll artists, sometimes, as in the example of Elvis Presley's 1956 appearance on Sullivan, with transcendent consequences. Seeing the hysterical reaction of young people to the new stars on TV only added to the popularity of rock and roll even as it convinced older people of the new genre's subversiveness.

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