Tangent Sunset

The History of Conscious Music by Alex Cosper

The Blending of Styles


The original ingredients of rock had been country mixed with rhythm & blues. Both country and r&b audiences had been steadily developing into mass subcultures since the forties. But as the sixties unfolded, it turned out r&b would have the bigger influence on rock. The screaming sounds of soul could be heard in the rock of The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Creedence Clearwater Revival and many others. Many of these bands acclerated their careers with electric renditions of classic blues covers, such as the Edwin Hawkins song "Suzy Q" covered by CCR or the early Led Zeppelin song "I Can't Quit You Baby," which was originally done by Willie Dixon or "Smokestack Lightning" by The Yardbyrds, originally done by Howlin' Wolf.

The Rolling Stones started out doing covers by blues greats like Muddy Waters. The concept of what would later be called "Americana music" would greatly be shaped by Creedence Clearwater Revival, who became one of the most popular and influential American bands of the sixties, alongside The Beach Boys and The Doors. While CCR's biggest hits were fun dance tunes like "Proud Mary" and "Green River," they also tapped into angry sounding anti-war issues in "Fortunate Son" and their early seventies hit "Run Through The Jungle."

Meanwhile, the folk movement seemed to be intertwined with country influences as in Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay." Pure country music was in the process of being stereotyped as formulaic and simple-minded yet some of the biggest country hits of the era were completely off the wall. Johnny Cash gained notoriety with the funny hit "A Boy Named Sue" and an upbeat love song about going down in flames called "Ring Of Fire." Jeannie C. Riley sung about a parent who was criticized by conservative school personnel because of her desire to wear short shirts in "Harper Valley PTA." Bobbie Gentry raised a lot of questions in the press with her elaborate story of something being thrown off of a bridge in "Ode To Billy Joe." Why didn't the song explain in all of its long-winded detail exactly what that something was? The mystery turned into controversy.

Continue to "The Mix of Country and Rock"