The history of popular music has cycled through trends and the ascendency of new genres since the invention of the phonograph and, a bit later, the radio took the performance of music beyond the sheet music industry that had previously supplied parlor pianos and concert halls with their repertoires.
Styles rose and fell with each new generation, with the popularity of the work of Tin Pan Alley tunesmiths waning as swing bands took the spotlight in the 1930s only to be supplanted by bebop in the late ’40s, then rhythm & blues and rock ‘n roll in the ’50s, which mutated into the various sub-genres of the music under the monosyllabic umbrella terms of “rock” and “soul’ in the ’60s before disco came on the scene in the ’70s.
It was only in the 1980s and ’90s that the currently most popular genres, hip-hop and electronic dance music (EDM), began their climb to eventually eclipse the primacy of the various forms of rock music on the Billboard charts.
Of course, parents of every generation saw the newly rising genres of popular music as threatening to the health and welfare of their children who were swept up by the wanton rhythms and undulating beats of whichever new genre was arriving on the scene.
Despite the clear cyclical nature of the development of new musical tastes, at least one right-wing commentator has posited an alternative theory behind the decline of rock & roll in popular musical culture and, naturally, it places the blame on a Democrat — Barack Obama, to be specific.
The evidence of this latest battle in the right-wing extremists’ culture wars comes in a clip from The Daily Wire, the website and media company founded by the infamous conservative activist Ben Shapiro.
It was during a panel discussion on the Backstage podcast on The Daily Wire‘s YouTube feed that host Jeremy Boreing read the obituary of rock ‘n roll and pinned the murder on America’s 44th president.
Here’s a transcript of that conversation, courtesy of Media Matters for America:
JEREMY BOREING (HOST): Rock ‘n roll’s over. You’re still talking about rock ‘n roll as if Barack Obama didn’t happen. Honestly – it’s for another day – Barack Obama destroyed rock ‘n roll.
MICHAEL KNOWLES (HOST): You have convinced me of this.
BOREING: There was rock ‘n roll, then there was Barack Obama, now there’s no rock ‘n roll. Because –
ANDREW KLAVAN (HOST): He did something good.
BOREING: Because – rock ‘n roll was about white male angst, white male teenage angst, and then Barack Obama came along and said –
BEN SHAPIRO (HOST): And stealing tropes from better Black music.
BOREING: Well, Barack Obama came along and said young white men aren’t allowed to have angst. They’re not allowed to, basically, express their dissatisfaction because they’re so toxic. And so, truly, rock ‘n roll just stopped.
Whatever achievements or sins one may attribute to Barack Obama during his presidency, putting the nail in the coffin of a genre of music already well into its declining years as a mass form of popular culture is. not one of them.
For all of The Daily Wire host’s references to Obama’s supposed prohibitions against teenage angst — a claim for which he provided not even a scintilla of evidence — any diminution of angst among male teens surely was more influenced by the changing parenting strategies of Baby Boomers and Generation Xers than any message of “hope” that the 44th president offered, even if one accepts the dubious proposition that rock music primarily stems from such disaffected teens.
Of course, one could also point to many other factors in the lesser prominence of rock music in contemporary society compared to the decades in the latter half of the 2oth century.
Modern technology brought along the development of synthesizers and computer recording tools that made making music in your bedroom a lot quicker and easier than actually learning how to play the guitar and finding bandmates to play along with.
The transformation of country music into something more reminiscent of 70’s southern rock than Hank Williams belies the story of a drop in popularity for rock.
Its popularity lives on, just under a different label.
And, while new bands in the rock genre may find it difficult to reach the heights of success that acts from previous generations did, many of the groups from the classic rock era continued to fill stadiums and arenas — at least until COVID brought touring to a halt — as newer acts struggled to move beyond the one-hit pop wonder status and build lasting audiences.
The best argument against accepting the boring Mr. Boreing’s premise that Barack Obama killed rock ‘n roll is the fact that conservatives have no credibility when it comes to the music.
Rock n’ roll was and still is, in many instances, revolutionary music that rejects conservatism in music, behavior, and — as the long legacy progressive activist/musicians like John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Bono, and so many others have demonstrated — in politics.
The Daily Wire has no right to claim its demise nor to blame it on anyone, particularly Barack Obama.
You can watch the video of the conversation transcribed above in the clip below.
Daily Wire host says Barack Obama destroyed rock 'n roll because "rock 'n roll was about white male angst…Barack Obama came along and said young white men aren't allowed to have angst" pic.twitter.com/hhmXcwEEKo
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) September 15, 2021
Original reporting by Media Matters for America.
We want to hear what YOU have to say. Scroll down and let us know in our comment section!
Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.