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Why 1955? Explaining the advent of rock music

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2008


At the time, 1929, 1939, 1945 and 1968 all seemed important turning points in the track of our civilisation. By contrast, as anyone alive at the time will attest, 1955 seemed like an unexceptional year in the United States at least. Right in the middle of the ‘middle-of-the-road’ years of the Eisenhower presidency, 1955 hardly seemed like the year for a major aesthetic revolution. Yet it was in the brief span between 1954 and 1956 that the rock aesthetic displaced the jazz-based aesthetic in American popular music. Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Patty Page, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Kay Starr, Les Paul, Eddie Fisher, Jo Stafford, Frankie Lane, Johnnie Ray and Doris Day gave way on the popular music charts to Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, The Platters, Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Carl Perkins and the growing legion of rockers.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1990

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