Music is a changing world. Soundcloud, Spotify, and iTunes have made it possible for listeners to have any music they could imagine at their fingertips. Today’s teens come to school with headphones more often than they come with pencils, and new records have the ability to reach the entire world in seconds. But has anything truly changed about the listener? Music fans, especially younger ones, still consume music at incredible rates, feverishly scouring all outlets for something new, but having the entire world at our fingertips has, in my opinion, come with it’s costs. To understand the world’s changing view of music, let’s go back about 47 years.
In mid August of 1969, the music world, and the entire world for that matter, changed forever with the start of the Woodstock festival. 400,000 people traveled from all around the nation to a dairy farm in Bethel, New York for a three day musical experience, one of the first of its time.
Music in the 60’s and 70’s progressed incredibly. Many critics would say that music changed more in these 20 years than it had in the past hundred. So what was so different about this time?
One of the biggest differences was the drug and counterculture movements who had come out of the dark for the first time in American history. Being pro-marijuana and anti-war was no longer a position to be held only in your home and never discussed. Rebelling against the established culture was finally socially excepted, which led to a feeling of disconnect for the younger generation, translating to the music of the time. Young people no longer felt that Frank Sinatra and swing jazz accurately represented how they felt. They were looking for something new, something more rebellious. That hole was filled, first, by The Beatles, and later by heavier acts like Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. But those artists have long since left the forefront of music. The world moved on to newer sounds and enjoyed countless new genres through the years, but, for some reason, the hippies are never forgotten. The hippie movement never truly died, and its effects have proven to be permanent. So what’s so special about the hippies? What makes them so different from all movements before and all those that followed?
The biggest difference, as far as I can see, was the love, not just for each other, but more so for the music. No generation before them had put together a festival like Woodstock, because no earlier generation had truly been in love with its music the way the hippies were. No movement to come would change the face of music the way they did, because no movement would ever accept all music the way they did. Today’s bands lose their fan base from small changes in sound, but Hendrix was able to reinvent himself each time he stepped on a stage because the massive crowds were not only hungry for the songs they knew, but desperately craved something original, something challenging to the form they’d been taught. The hippie movement explored the sonic world of music bravely, because they loved all they discovered.
The hippies changed music because they loved music and, because of this, the subculture will be studied and remembered for years to come.