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The Misunderstanding of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Rock ‘n’ roll is often misunderstood due to how it is commonly portrayed in our society. This genre of music is almost always associated with dark forces and the occult, which in reality, is a prime example of “judging a book by its cover”.  As an unknown writer once said, “We live in a very superficial society. It is very easy to fall into the trap of looking only at the surface of people, things, and ideas without taking the time and effort to delve deeper into them.” A seemingly unrelated topic that works nicely as an analogy for this misjudgment is the treatment of Blacks throughout history.  At its surface, Rock ‘n’ roll does show signs of being solely based around darkness. However, underneath that surface is a wide collection of songs pertaining to the most eclectic of topics. Black people are judged because of their skin color, even though they are human beings just like everyone else. Until people open their minds (or their ears), and truly pay attention to who Black people are as individuals and what Rock ‘n’ roll truly signifies, they are left with demeaning and unfair images that are nowhere near the actuality.

An in depth look into Rock ‘n’ roll shows a melting pot of widely unrelated topics, most having nothing to do with dark forces and the occult. The anti-war and anti-violence sentiment of the 60’s can be heard through songs like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son”, which attacked militant patriotic behavior and the individuals who supported the fight without getting their own hands dirty, and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U. S. A.”, which addresses the harmful effects that the Vietnam War had on Americans. Rock ‘n’ roll also has quite few songs about love, some coming from bands that would not normally be associated with the theme- including “Forever” by Kiss (which details a man’s realization that his love for a certain girl will last forever), and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses (which was inspired by a poem band mate Axl Rose wrote about his girlfriend at the time). And one of the best proofs that Rock ‘n’ roll was not centered on darkness is a little song by Jimmy Buffet called, “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. This song has no double meaning, and is entirely about a man’s love for cheeseburgers. There is absolutely nothing dark forces in it, which can be said for a majority of Rock ‘n’ roll songs.

The misunderstanding of Rock ‘n’ roll can be paralleled with the unfair treatment of Blacks throughout history.  Opinion on them is commonly based on their skin color instead of who they are as a person. Take Solomon Northup, the free African- American who had to endure twelve years as a slave. As a few writers from the Encyclopedia Britannica have said, “Solomon received some education and worked on his family’s farm as a child. He married Anne Hampton in 1828. In 1834, after selling their farm, the couple moved to Saratoga Springs, New York, where they worked odd jobs to support their three children. Northup also established a reputation as a talented fiddler.” Contrary to the popular belief of the time that African-Americans were savages and naturally inferior to White Americans, Solomon Northup was a hard worker who was able to create a mostly stable lifestyle for his family, and even became a renown musician. Unfortunately, he was lured by two men who judged him based off of his skin to travel to Washington DC, where he was drugged and sold into slavery. For the next twelve years he worked as a slave for different masters, who did not believe that he was a free and educated African-American. He was being judged by his skin, not his true self. After finally securing his freedom, Northup ended up writing his memoir, which revealed to the world his side of the story. Another Black individual who was much more than he appeared to be on the outside was Thomas-Alexandre Dumas. The father of famed writer Alexandre Dumas, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas defied expectations and led an adventure of a life. As Tom Reiss, author of The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, says in an  interview with NPR’s Scott Simon , “He’s a black man, born into slavery, and then he rises higher than any black man rose in a white society before our own time,” and that, “He became a four-star general and challenges Napoleon, and he did it all 200 years ago, at the height of slavery.” In a time when Blacks were commonly found to be slaves, this one man was able to break expectations by becoming a respected general for the French army. And although his life story ended in an unfortunate manner, thanks in part to a ploy by Napoleon (who disliked Dumas for being successful and the opposite of him physically) to get rid of him, Dumas’ influence lived on, especially through some of his son’s most popular characters, such as Edmond Dantès and the musketeer d’Artagnan. Both Solomon Northup and Thomas-Alexandre Dumas highlight the “judging of a book by its cover” that took place in history,  which in turn mirrors the misunderstanding of Rock ‘n’ roll.

Rock ‘n’ roll is a Black person enduring the negative biases of people of different skin color. It is a misunderstood genre of music, incorrectly portrayed in society. And at its most basic level, Rock ‘n’ Roll is a book judged by its cover.

Works Cited

 Cole, Rachel, David Fiske, Rachel Seligman, and Clifford Brown. “Solomon Northup.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

Simon, Scott, and Tom Reiss. “‘The Black Count,’ A Hero On The Field, And The Page.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.

Unknown. “Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover.” Modern Day Adages. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

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