1.3 A Technology-based Community, pp 18-20.
Lori Taylor, “The Politicized American Legend of the Singing Hero.”
Singing heroes find their base in a community tied together no only through personal contact but also through modern technology—radio, records, television, magazines, and copying machines—which becomes increasingly important in facilitating community among geographically and socially diverse individuals. “As electronic communications spanned the landscape and defied time, the cultural barriers of nature declined in importance. Boundaries were more abstract, consisting of invisible connections among subgroups of a massive whole” (Bronner 1986: 106).
Music as a mass product is popular culture, but the political song movement uses music and musicians to make sense of life experience. They have rules of communication that apply to the modern communications through which they reach one another as well as to face-to-face encounters. This community and its socialization process was not possible until a few decades ago. Choice is an important factor in post modern associations. These people—communiks, folkniks, peaceniks—have chosen this part of their culture. Their association with the people who perpetuate the group is voluntary.1 “Our society, shifting (its critics say) from rugged individualism to frightened selfishness, needs information on how people form voluntary associations” (Glassie 1982: 13). The group is not dependent on traditional ties, such as geography and kinship. This is certainly not a group small enough that each member can communicate with every other member face to face, but they can be together alone at a live televised concert; they can read the same newspaper the same morning over the same kind of coffee. They are tied to one another by common experience. They form their own ties of kinship based not on lines of birth but on lines of musical, political, and social influences. This group is not apart from society; it is like a family within the society as a whole—beyond the English-speaking societies even, as shown by books like Fiori Umberto’s Joe Hill, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan: Storia della Canzone Popolare in USA (1978—published in Italian only) and Jacques Vassal’s Electric Children: Roots and Branches of Modern Folkrock (1976—translated from the French).
Membership in this community is not as formal as an ethnic or occupational group. A member becomes aware that his experience is shared only by meeting other people who have experienced many of the same things—commercial products have taken on new meanings.
The very nature of a professionalized music which draws its workers from an identifiable group will inevitably affect and reflect the music traditions of the group. In other words, the music continues to function as folk music. In essence, it speaks for the group, articulating the concerns, beliefs, attitudes and world view of the group. Both content analysis and audience interviews support this point: it is not the song, its text (or the performer) which is inherently traditional, but the role of that item, the behaviors surrounding it, its function, its use and import (Rosenberg 1986: 152-3).
Singers of songs function as leaders, heroes, and sources of information for much of their audience. The singing hero is usually conscious of the role he has acquired, even aspired to.
* “Communik” is my own label for the community, which recalls communist and socialist tendencies and cultural ancestors, peaceniks and folkniks (from “beatnik,” which is derived from the Soviet sputnik).
- Main Page: Politicized American Legend of the Singing Hero
- Previous Section: 1.2 The New Religion
- This Section: 1.3 A Technology-based Community
- Next Section: 1.4 Narratives of Singing Heroes
Lori Taylor, “The Politicized American Legend of the Singing Hero: Joe Hill, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen.” M.A. thesis, American Civilization. The George Washington University, 1990.