(The following articles are from The New Yorker, October 26.)
Can’t Stop the Beat
Scoring with rock and roll and hip-hop.
Rock and roll first hit the airwaves in the mid-fifties, and it didn’t take long for its creators to understand their ability to corrupt an audience with pleasure. “They’re really rockin’ in Boston / In Pittsburgh, P.A. / Deep in the heart of Texas / And ’round Frisco Bay,” Chuck Berry boasted in “Sweet Little Sixteen.” The thrill of the new sound—the way it made our hearts race and ruffled the feathers of authority—is almost impossible to describe now. Rock captured and broadcast our rogue adolescent energy. It was galvanizing. When the ululating falsetto of Little Richard’s “Good Golly Miss Molly” first played through the radio of the family Chevy, as we were driving back from a fishing trip in Canada, my father had to stop the car; he laughed until he cried. When Elvis made his mass-media début on “The Ed Sullivan Show”—his notorious gyrations filmed only from the waist up—I fell off the family chaise longue with delight. The “doo-doo-wah”s and the “shoo-dooten-shoo-be-dah”s may have sounded like nonsense, but they spoke to the buoyant and vague horizons of our dreams. We were postwar middle-class white kids living in the slipstream of the greatest per-capita rise in income in the history of Western civilization; we were “teen-agers”—a term, coined in 1941, that was in common usage a decade later—a new, recognizable franchise. We had money, mobility, and problems all our own. Rock and roll was pitched directly to us and to our dawning sense of our own power: A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-wop-bam.