By Alex H
The ’60s and ’70s were a time of social upheaval and cultural change, which can be seen in the music of the time. The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, Jonny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and The Beatles are only some of the musicians and bands that emerged in this age of musical revolution. Many people look at this time in history as being the most important era for the development of music culture. It was at this time that lifestyles began to change. Many of us know this as the “hippie era” in which the youth of America began to question all parts of society previously accepted. People were challenging lifestyles, drugs, clothing, sexuality, formalities, education, and the function of the government in a democracy. Music is in a way a cultural artifact that sheds light to the culture and society at the time that the music is made and released. This is why we can use methods within cultural anthropology to study the music of the 1960s and 1970s, why it emerged in popularity, and how it contributed to the function of society and social change.
We can look at the foundation for this counterculture in music by looking at Boasian Anthropology. Boasian Anthropology has four main theories, cultural relativism, and historical particularism, diffusion, and salvage anthropology. For this purpose it is Historical Particularism that helps us study the music of the ’60s and ’70s. Franz Boaz states that, “In historical happenings we are compelled to consider every phenomenon not only as an effect but as a cause.” (Boaz, 315) When Boaz says this, he means that we have to look at the historical development and events of a culture in order to study their behavior. We cannot just think of historical events as being the results of something, but also as agents of change. In other words, if we want to look at how this culture of music developed, we have to look at the history of the united states prior to the ’60s and ’70s. Many of the youth in this era had parents who lived in the great depression. Their parents were used to a much more conservative and traditional way of life and culture. The music of the seventies was about controversial ideas that were not explored in music in prior generations. For example: the idea of drugs being associated with a peaceful lifestyle, an open sexuality, or an anti-violence discourse. The song “All You Need is Love” was released in the famous summer of 1967 by the Beatles. The song tittle became a famous saying for those in the anti war movement. To understand this, we need to use Historical Particularism. At this time, the US government was expanding its presents in Vietnam. People of America were tired of the deaths and the damage the war extended on their society. Boasian Anthropology states that each culture undergoes its unique history that results in its varying cultural movements. In this case, the music of America in the 1960s and 1970s reflected a time of Cultural Revolution brought upon by several historical events.
The basic premise of structural Functionalism is that society functions as a whole while areas of culture and society interact to make it work. However, we cannot just look at the function of society, we have to also look at the structure. This is what Radcliffe Brown believed. He claimed that, “For social anthropology the task is to formulate and validate statements about the conditions of existence of social systems (laws of social statics) and the regularities that are observable in social change” (Radcliffe Brown) By this Radcliffe is saying that when studying society and social change such as the counter culture of the ’60s and ’70s, one must focus on the social structure rather then biology. In order to understand the social phenomena of the musical revolution, you have to look at the social level. He also claims that all individuals are just performing social roles that allow society to function as a whole. This suggests that people of the ’60s and ’70s were not acting a certain way because of biological needs, but because of reactions to social influence and social systems. The music created a social system or way to question society that did not previously exist in such magnitude. The youth of America that were acting as rebels were not harming society, but were performing social roles needed for change to happen. This idea of Structural Functionalism suggests that all types of people help society function as a whole. The musical revolution allowed society to change and function in a way that was better for the changing attitudes in the country.
Music is a cultural artifact that can give insight into the culture of the time. Anthropology allows us to analyze music as a result of historical events and how it ties into the function of society. We have to look at music as an indicator of social change.
- Boas, Franz (December 1920). “The Methods of Ethnology”. American Anthropologist (jstor PDF) 22 (4): 311–321. doi:10.1525/aa.1920.22.4.02a00020. JSTOR660328. ISSN: 00027294.
- A. R. Radcliffe-Brown. 1951. The Comparative Method in Social Anthropology. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 81(1/2): 22.