What is rock? Our newest textbook, Rock’n America: A Social and Cultural History, attempts to answer this question. In the words of the author, Deena Weinstein:
“Rock has many names. Some have called it rock ’n’ roll, and many still refer to it as rock and roll. Singer Frank Sinatra called it ‘the most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression it has been my displeasure to hear.’ But even those employing the most widely used term, rock, do not agree on what type of music should be designated by that four-letter word.”
Rock’n America offers a new and systematic approach to understanding rock by applying sociological concepts in a historical context. Weinstein—a rock critic, journalist, and academic—starts by outlining an original approach to understanding rock, explaining how the form has developed through a complex and ever-changing set of relations between artists, fans, and mediators. She then traces the history of rock in America through its distinctive eras, from rock's precursors to rock in the digital age.
To accompany the text, Weinstein has compiled some essential “Listening Lists.” These are placed throughout the book, and provide students with well-curated playlists for enhancing their comprehension of the material. By loading these playlists onto their “devices” (computers, tablets, iPods, or even Walkmans, stereos, record players, etc.) students will have the perfect musical accompaniment to their reading. As a bonus, we thought we’d share the playlists here:
The focus of Weinstein’s book is really the history of rock in America. In her own words:
“The music was born in the United States and the country has remained essential to it through its history. America’s social, political, economic, and cultural changes form the context within which rock has been expressed over its long history. Grasping that context not only helps us to understand rock itself, but also allows us to understand how particular music became, for each of us, what is called ‘the soundtrack of our lives’ in its living reality. Rock can be approached thoughtfully, and, when it is, it can be enjoyed even more.”
We cannot agree more about the importance of approaching rock (and all things) thoughtfully. If you teach an undergraduate course on the history or sociology of music and would like to consider this new book as required reading, please email us to request an examination copy.