Music and Politics: A Critical Introduction

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Historians have maintained that popular music had an influence upon individuals and in turn society. Yet the historiography of popular music has focused far more on bands and wider social reactions to the music than on understanding how and why fans consumed music. This article demonstrates how a more fan-centric approach can allow for more subtle understandings of the influence and role of popular music in the twentieth century. During the 1970s, progressive rock was an important part of life for many young music fans. It provided them with escape, entertainment and a sense of individualism, community and intellectual reward, much of which centred upon the idea that the genre was different, uncommercial and difficult to access and understand. Progressive rock also encouraged some debate around issues of class amongst the young and helped cement the importance of individualism in middle-class and educated circles. However, many of the values articulated in progressive rock, not least the discontent with contemporary society and the emphasis on intellectual values, were also shared by many within the broader social framework that fans wanted to rebel against. Moreover, other musical subgenres liked to imagine themselves as similarly ‘different’ and thus progressive rock shows that the real significance of popular music for historians is not the music itself but rather how it was consumed and thought about by the fans themselves.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages284
ISBN (Electronic)9781139505963
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2018

Publication series

NameCultural & Social History
PublisherBerg Publishers
ISSN (Print)1478-0038


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