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Pop Music in the 50s
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Pop Music in the 50s

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Pop music in the 50s

This podcast is the first in a three-part series of podcasts about music in the 20th century.

 

Voiced by Mickey Cesar

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Pop music in the 50s

Pop is short for popular. It was music favored by the public. There has always been popular music, but pop was born approximately around the time when Elvis Presley started his career. It was more than 60 years ago.

Pop is the music for young people. It is about boys and girls, dating, falling in love and falling out of love. It is about dancing and having a good time. It is also about feeling different and that it is okay to feel this way. Pop can be fun or sad, strange or even dangerous. It doesn't have any important meaning, but it always tells about something important in a beautiful way. It can reach anybody's heart.

In the 20th century with the advent of recording, music had a chance to be much more widely disseminated. America was rich. Young people had jobs. They had money to buy radios and turntables to listen to the new records.

Back in the fifties there were already a lot of different kinds of popular music in the United States. Having money and buying electric guitars, young people began the new music: R&B that is rhythm and blues and rock'n'roll. The first major pop stars were the crooners of the ‘30s and ‘40s like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, who sold millions of records.

Elvis Presley listened to this music when he was a boy. He heard gospel music in his parents' church and he heard black people playing R&B. Elvis made his first record in 1954 and in 1956 he had his first number one hit Heartbreak Hotel. All of a sudden he woke up rich and famous. Elvis was an amazing singer. He looked good and different. That's why girls liked him and boys wanted to be like him. Earlier all the young people looked the same and did the same things. Elvis changed everything. He was the first pop star and the first star of rock'n'roll.

Presley's later life wasn't very happy. Some of his records and films met with failure. He had problems with drugs and died in 1977. But we still call him nothing but the King of Rock'n'roll. Since the 1950s, there have been a lot of pop stars, but none of them changed pop music as much as Elvis did.

But in the 1960s he was supplanted by the Beatles, who revolutionized pop by writing their own material, instigating a trend that is still unchangeable. From 1962 to 1970 they were in the lead on all the charts in Britain and the United States.

Curiously, the first pop music charts appeared only in 1952, when the first Top Twenty was recorded. It concurred with the period when the notion “teenager” appeared. Historically there'd been no transitional period between childhood and adulthood. It started after World War II and teens found their music in pop, which has never stopped developing…