Rock Music, Authority and Western Culture, 1964–1980

McFarland. Feb. 2024. 296p. ISBN 9781476693699. pap. $39.95. MUSIC
In this well-researched, engaging narrative about the evolution of rock and roll, Cosby (Devil’s Music, Holy Rollers, and Hillbillies: How America Gave Birth to Rock and Roll) guides readers through a discussion on popular music and authority, from Elvis Presley’s debut to the hedonistic, drug-fueled excess of the 1970s. Cosby posits that while rock was often perceived to be antithetical to mainstream morality—often even ascribed to satanic influences—this type of music was frequently an effective way for people outside the mainstream to express their discontent with the establishment’s views. He also argues that many of the genre’s most famous artists subscribed to a relatively traditional sense of ethics and Christian morality. To some readers, Cosby might come across as an apologist for some of the more indefensible parts of rock’s history. Still, he expertly weaves together an intriguing and coherent story of rock and roll’s evolution.
VERDICT Music historians will find much to like in this fantastic resource, but the perspective is more singular than balanced.
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