The life and times of Australia's Baby Boomer generation


Popular Music of the Baby Boomer Years

See Defining Moments of the Baby Boomer Years for the story of the birth of Rock'n'roll music. Note: all top 20 lists in this section are based on the Kent Music Report and ARIA charts

1940s/50s

Traditional pop music such as the bebop era of jazz hit its peak and climaxed as early rock and roll music in the 1950s. Pioneered by Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins and poularised by Elvis Presley, it was embraced by teenagers and the emerging youth culture as the first wave of the Baby Boom reached its teen years. Other prominent rock and roll musicians of the 1950s included Paul Anka, Bo Diddley and Buddy Holly.
At the time, rock music was generally dismissed or condemned by older generations.
The massive popularity and eventual worldwide scope of rock and roll gave it an unprecedented social impact. Far beyond simply a musical style, rock and roll, as seen in movies and in the new medium of television, influenced lifestyles, fashion, attitudes, and language.
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The 1960s

Popular music entered an era of "all hits" as numerous singers released recordings, beginning in the 1950s, as 45-rpm "singles" (with another on the flip side), and radio stations tended to play only the most popular of the wide variety of records being made. Also, bands tended to record only the best of their songs as a chance to become a hit record. The developments of the Motown Sound, "folk rock" and the British Invasion of bands from the U.K. (The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five, The Rolling Stones ,and so on), are major examples of American listeners expanding from the folksinger, doo-wop and saxophone sounds of the 1950s and evolving to include psychedelia music.
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The 1970s

The seventies were a time when a new generation of young people were exposed to new media and hence newer ideas in almost every field. TV and motion picture brought to varied audiences images, lifestyles and music from diverse regions and peoples. This led to the emergence of a new vocabulary and experimentation in music. The main exponents of progressive rock include Genesis, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Pink Floyd. The experimental nature of progressive rock is exemplified in songs such as Pink Floyd's "Echoes". Also the start of "Metal" in many forms began with the British bands Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Although "Metal" was in a very early and experimental state, it was nonetheless Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath's doing that made "Metal" what it is today.
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The 1980s

The music of the 80's is one of the most memorable aspects, as it encompased the over-the-top glamour and self-indulgence of the decade.
In the United States, MTV was launched and music videos began to have a huge effect on the record industry. The first video aired was Video Killed the Radio Star by the British band The Buggles, and it proved oddly prophetic. Bands such as Duran Duran made lavish music videos which made MTV a cultural phenomenon. Early eighties groups such as Devo and Haircut 100 were pioneers. Pop artists such as Madonna and Michael Jackson mastered the format and turned it into big business.
The sounds of new technology, synthesizers and keyboards, along with drum machines, lent an electronic, distinct sound to many 1980s records.
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    Baby Boomer Central is published by Australia On CD. © Stephen Yarrow, 2010.