Let's Rock!

How 1950s America Created Elvis and the Rock and Roll Craze

By (author) Richard Aquila

Hardback - £35.00

Publication date:

28 October 2016

Length of book:

368 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442269361

Rock & roll was one of the most important cultural developments in post–World War II America, yet its origins are shrouded in myth and legend. Let’s Rock! reclaims the lost history of rock & roll. Based on years of research, as well as interviews with Bo Diddley, Pat Boone, and other rock & roll pioneers, the book offers new information and fresh perspectives about Elvis, the rise of rock & roll, and 1950s America.

Rock & roll is intertwined with the rise of a post–World War II youth culture, the emergence of African Americans in society, the growth of consumer culture, technological change, the expansion of mass media, and the rise of a Cold War culture that endorsed traditional values to guard against communism. Richard Aquila’s book demonstrates that early rock & roll was not as rebellious as common wisdom has it. The new sound reflected the conservatism and conformity of the 1950s as much as it did the era’s conflict. Rock & roll supported centrist politics, traditional values, and mainstream attitudes toward race, gender, class, and ethnicity. The musical evidence proves that most teenagers of the 1950s were not that different from their parents and grandparents when it came to basic beliefs, interests, and pastimes. Young and old alike were preoccupied by the same concerns, tensions, and insecurities.

Rock & roll continues to permeate the fabric of modern life, and understanding the music’s origins reminds us of the common history we all share. Music lovers who grew up during rock & roll’s early years as well as those who have come to it more recently will find
Let’s Rock an exciting historical and musical adventure.

The title of this book does not do it justice. Aquila begins before the 1950s: he tries to define the term ‘rock 'n' roll,’ and he looks at where the term originated. In addition, his focus is not limited to rock 'n' roll and Elvis's influence on the genre; he offers extensive historical background on musical genres before Elvis, along with insights on subgenres that developed as a result of Elvis's popularity. Progenitors—Bill Haley, Pat Boone, Fats Domino—paved the way for Elvis, and their music demonstrates the music's evolution. As Aquila writes in chapter 5, ‘Elvis was not the inventor of rock & roll or even its first star. But he certainly did more than any other artist to popularize the new sound.’ In looking at the post-Elvis period, Aquila includes musicians like rockabilly artists Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly and R and B artists Little Richard and Chuck Berry. In addition Aquila discusses disc jockey Alan Freed, movies, songwriters like Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, and the interface of race and musical genres. In sum, this is a valuable and concise history of rock 'n' roll and its societal influence.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers.