Book Talk: Rocking in the Free World: Popular Music and the Politics of Freedom in Postwar America
When: Wednesday 13 September at 6pm
Where: Prudence Myer Studio – Level Five, The Ian Potter Southbank Centre 43 Sturt Street Southbank, VIC 3006 and streaming online
Please join us to launch Nick Tochka’s Rocking in the Free World: Popular Music and the Politics of Freedom in Postwar America (Oxford University Press). Nick will chat a bit about the book – and then there will be a few snacks.
Progressive and libertarian, anti-Communist and revolutionary, Democratic and Republican, quintessentially American but also universal: by the late 1980s, rock ’n’ roll had acquired a dizzying array of political labels. These claims held in common the idea that the music could liberate its listeners. But how did rock ’n’ roll become enmeshed with so many different competing ideas about freedom? And what does that story reveal about the politics of popular culture in postwar America?
Rocking in the Free World traces how Americans imaginatively linked rock music to abstract notions of freedom between the 1950s and the 1980s. Integrating analyses of major artists, performances, and albums, the book’s chronological narrative presents seven moments that shaped how Americans came to comprehend the political meaning of rock ’n’ roll—from Cold War anxieties in the 1950s, to countercultural clashes in the 1960s and 1970s, to end-of-history triumphalism in the 1980s. Through these moments, rock music provided a platform for Americans to debate the musical politics of belonging in the postwar United States. And by understanding how twentieth-century Americans came to believe that rock could set you free, we can better understand the potential—as well as the limits—of popular music as a political force today.