It may seem an exaggeration to say that popular music ever saved us. It moved us individually, socially, culturally, it inspired us. But did it ever really change things, change our direction?
It helped. America and most of the world were adrift after World War II. The culture of the 1930s and 1940s ran head on into the reality of a just-ended massive global war, the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, etc. Nobody asked popular music to evolve into a new soundtrack. It’s just that the old one seemed out of place, out of time, out of tune, like the piano player at a silent film.
We know what happened next. Music for a new world grew and took over. And when times were most challenging—civil rights and Vietnam for just a couple of examples—music was an anthemic driver. The music didn’t make new people, but new people needed their music. Protest. Psychedelic. Punk. Hip hop. On and on.
Now that we find ourselves in really strange times again, I am listening for a new soundtrack, waiting for it to make its move. Haven’t heard it yet. We do need inspiration, we do need motivation, we do need saving. Ask anyone who lived through some of the dynamic decades what the music meant to change and to them. Where is that music now?