Sunday, June 26, 2011

The 70's: Storytellers, Rockers, and Disco

Stevie WonderCover of Stevie WonderBy Jim Serf

The '70's rolled in and pretty much took up where the '60's had left off. The turbulent '60's had seen the assassination of president John Kennedy and soon after, the shooting of his brother, Robert, an unpopular and seemingly no win situation with the war in Vietnam, and another assassination of a man who was trying to bring about great change, Martin Luther King Jr. But there was light at the end of the tunnel for the U.S. In May of 1969, the first manned moon landing took place.

Not only did America beat the Soviets to the lunar surface, but we did it within the time frame that President Kennedy had proposed some eight years earlier. With all this going on, the music was there throughout.

Accredited online schools are an option for people who have a passion for history. Whether for your personal interest or with the goal of finding a history-related career, history courses can be fascinating.

Music would take a hard shot as well, however, right at the opening of the new decade. After six years of creating and playing music that changed and made history, the Beatles went their separate ways. After about four years of artistic, financial, and personal differences, John, Paul, George, and Ringo called it quits. Their fans were devastated. Their last no. 1 hit was Paul McCartney's, moving 'Let It Be'. All four would have success on their own, but the chemistry and charisma that was the 'Beatles', was gone.

A huge gear was missing in the machine that was rock 'n' roll, but the machine wasn't broke. How could it be? There were still so many great artists that were and had been there. Not to mention new stars that were on the horizon. The hard rocking Led Zeppelin got mellow and poetic with '71's No. 1 smash, 'Stairway to Heaven'.

Singer/songwriters like Elton John, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Neil Young, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and the late great Jim Croce were filling the airwaves with songs that told stories that spoke to us all, then and now. Black Sabbath, along with front-man Ozzy Osbourne introduced the music to 'Metal Rock'.

Hard-driving, in-your-face, and with no apologies, it struck a very loud core with listeners. Love it, hate it, face it, Metal was here and impossible to ignore. African American artist like "the godfather of soul", James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and Sly and the family Stone, were educating and bringing folks of different races together, as well as entertaining. Marvin Gaye's unforgettable classic, 'What's Going On', spoke to rising poverty and crime of the inner-cities.

A new word, "funk" was being used more and more to describe the music that was coming from the black artists of the day. Stevie Wonder expertly mixed soul, funk, and a little touch of rock with mega-hit, 'Superstition' (challenge you not to move to it).

Another genre of rock was developing and growing popular, especially with southern listeners. A combination of country and rock, this new sound was known as 'Country' or 'Southern' Rock. Leading the way were bands like .38 Special, the Almond Brothers, Bad Company, and the legendary, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Their huge classic, "Freebird", is probably being sung along to by partially inebriated, enthusiastic, rednecks as I write this. God knows I have.

Another band with a 'country' twang was the Eagles. Always just a little more rock than country, songs like, "Take It Easy", "One of These Nights", Best of My Love", and the ultra-classic, "Hotel California", along with an almost perfect melodic harmony between the members, made the Eagles one of the most popular, influential bands in pop-music history.

Then, in 1977, the film, "Saturday Night Fever", opened up in theatres. Creating a mega-celebrity out of 23 year-old star, John Travolta. The movie's soundtrack introduced America to the 'Bee Gees' and 'Disco'. The Bee Gees, hit 'Staying Alive' was the no. 1 hit of that year. Lasting only 4 years the "disco era", made stars out of artist like, Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Chic, and, at the top of the totem-pole,the Bee Gees. A pulsing rhythmic beat, along with a soaring choir of instruments like trumpets, the music was 100% dance driven. Although it's reign was short, disco's legacy has out-lived it's sound. Whenever you hear today's dance-club music, your listening to disco, (slightly evolved), but still there.

For just regular, good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll, there was Paul McCartney and his band,' Wings'. The former Beatle was pumping out hit tunes like, "Band on the Run", "Juniors Farm", "With A Little Luck", and the simplistic but very catchy, "Let 'em In". Newcomers', Fleetwood Mac and their ground-breaking album, "Rumors", swept the airwaves in 1976. In 1979, Pink Floyd built an album and called it, "The Wall". It became an instant classic. Blondie sang about a "Heart of Glass", the Kinks met "Lola", but stayed just friends, and Queen promised, "We Will Rock You".

In 1977, an unexpected tragedy occurred. Legendary performer, and the 'King of Rock 'n' Roll', Elvis Aaron Presley died in a Memphis, Tenn. hospital at the age of 42. He had been found unconscious in the bathroom of his Graceland home. Prescription drug abuse was the primary cause.

An entire nation mourned the once dynamic singer's passing. 24-48 hr. musical tributes on the radio and constant television coverage. One got the feeling that some head of state had died, and the truth was not far off. Elvis Presley, it seemed had touched so many people with his music, movies, and his down-home country, manner. He is greatly missed to this day. "Long live the King".

The '70's. Some musical genres came and stayed, some came and went. We regretfully said good-bye to performers that were dearly loved like, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Croce, and Janis Joplin. But like the Righteous Brothers sang, "If there's a rock 'n' roll heaven, you know they got a hell of a band"!

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