The Effect of Dylan and Elvis on Culture


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The Effect of Dylan and Elvis on Culture

The 1950’s and 1960’s were a time of great change in the United States of America. Some people were trying to hold on to traditional values while others wanted dramatic changes. Many people from the older generations felt that their was too much change going on and that the younger generations were disrespectful. The Cold War was going on during this time as well, and many people felt very differently about the situation. The older generation felt like Americans needed to be willing to support the defense of the nation while younger people rebelled against those traditional ideas and values. Many of the traditional values such as religion, loyalty and trust for government, and sexuality were being revolted against by young people, especially those in college. Figures like Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan became voices for the entire generation. Others like Joseph Heller became voices through their literature and ideas. Because of this many people were stuck between their traditional values and the new counter culture that people like Elvis and Dylan were representing.
Elvis Presley grew up in a small town in Mississippi and had a very traditional upbringing. His mother and father worked average jobs and were considered lower middle class. Elvis was raised to have traditional values like religion, respect for elders, loyalty and patriotism for the U.S.A., although these traditions never left, Elvis is intent on following what he believes is the American dream. Elvis is portrayed as a rock star that rebels against traditional values but in reality he is very closely tied to his values. Elvis’ dissent from tradition is shown in a few examples. First, Elvis begins to find his own unique style and haircut, which leads into bigger things. Another example of Elvis’ dissent was when he openly admitted not wanting to serve his country in the military. This totally went against traditional values regarding loyalty and patriotism for his country. Elvis did not want the military to take away from his fame and fortune. Another example of Elvis’ dissent was his sexual attitude, Elvis was very provocative and many parents blamed him and his music for their children’s promiscuity.

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Elvis at times though showed that he never truly left his traditional values. For example, Elvis always regrets not spending more time with his mother before she passed away. Another example of this was when Elvis upset about not having a stable girlfriend like his ex Dixie. Even though Elvis was a teen idol and sex symbol, he never truly left his traditional ways.
Bob Dylan was another figure who dissented from his traditional values as he became the voice of a generation. Bob Dylan left his traditional life to look for a new start, he found Woody Guthrie and his new life began. Bob Dylan wrote many of his songs during the 1950’s and 1960’s during the Cold War and other key events in United States history. Many of these songs were against the Vietnam War and other important issues of the time such as racism. Many young people begin to listen and believe the songs and eventually became influenced by them. Because of this Bob Dylan became the voice of a generation. Dylan also challenged pretty much any type of authority, including cold war values and white supremacy. Dylan had a life changing motor cycle accident and tries to become more of a family man. He decides he does not want to be the voice of the generation anymore. This is like Elvis in that both left their traditional routes to find their own version of the American dream, but both reverted back to their traditional ways throughout their lives.
Joseph Heller was an American author who used his literary works to speak out against the Cold War. He was the author of Catch 22 which was a critique of the Cold War. He made it seem as if the idea of war was insane. For example, at one point in the book Youssarian tells his commander he is scared of flying because he does not want to die, his commander tells him not to be ashamed because it is okay to be afraid, Youssarian tells him he is not ashamed just scared. This demonstrates Heller’s views on the war, he felt like people made it seem crazy to not want to fight when it is really crazy to want to fight. It is sane not to want to get killed yet the only way out of the war was to be insane, hence the title Catch 22. Youssarian was against everything because it just did not make sense to him.
Elvis, Dylan, and Heller all used their influence to rebel and in doing so became the voice of a generation. They all had traditional values but also had anti-traditional views on some things. All were in pursuit of what they believed was the American dream and all had an event which caused them to revert to their traditional values more. The moral of all of this is that it is okay to question and look for change, and bring issues to question, but it is not wrong to want traditional values. There has to be a balance between traditional values and new changes.


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