Richard AquilaJan 18, 2023
Rock & Roll in Kennedy's America
A Cultural History of the Early 1960s
Johns Hopkins University Press 2022
In the early 1960s, the nation was on track to fulfill its destiny in what was being called the American Century. Baby boomers and rock & roll shared the country's optimism and energy. For one brief, shining moment in the early 1960s, both President John F. Kennedy and young people across the country were riding high. The dream of a New Frontier would soon give way, however, to a new reality involving assassinations, the Vietnam War, Cold War crises, the civil rights movement, a new feminist movement, and various culture wars.
From the former host of NPR's Rock & Roll America, Richard Aquila's Rock & Roll in Kennedy's America: A Cultural History of the Early 1960s (Johns Hopkins UP, 2022) offers an in-depth look at early 1960s rock & roll, as well as an unconventional history of Kennedy's America through the lens of popular music. Based on extensive research and exclusive interviews with Dion, Bo Diddley, Brenda Lee, Martha Reeves, Pete Seeger, Bob Gaudio, Dick Clark, and other legendary figures, the book rejects the myth that Buddy Holly's death in 1959 was the day the music died. It proves that rock & roll during the early 1960s was vibrant and in tune with the history and events of this colorful era. These interviews and Aquila's research reveal unique insights and new details about politics, gender, race, ethnicity, youth culture, and everyday life. Rock & Roll in Kennedy's America recalls an important chapter in rock & roll and American history.
Richard Aquila is professor emeritus of history and American studies at Penn State University and the former host of NPR's Rock & Roll America. He is the author of The Sagebrush Trail: Western Movies and Twentieth-Century America and Let's Rock! How 1950s America Created Elvis and the Rock & Roll Craze.
Bradley Morgan is a media arts professional in Chicago and author of U2's The Joshua Tree: Planting Roots in Mythic America. He manages partnerships on behalf of CHIRP Radio 107.1 FM, serves as a co-chair of the associate board at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and volunteers in the music archive at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Bradley Morgan on Twitter.