North American Culture

1970s and the Cultural Influences in America



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The culture of America was deeply influenced by the 1970's. America will never forget this era. The main theme of the 1970's was a growing sense of disillusionment for America's government and our leaders. This was onset by the Watergate Scandal. The scandal opened America's eyes to a constitutional crisis that caused a vice president to resign and ended the presidency of Richard Nixon. The Vietnam war continued to divide the country, even after the Paris Peace Accords which put an end to U.S. Military participation. The anti-war movement took no heed to stop demonstrations, even with the end of U.S. Military Participation in Vietnam. The Kent State Massacre which occurred on May 4, 1970 fed the nations doubt in authority figures .Members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine. I can still here the echos of Crosby ,Stills, and Nash's song about this massacre titled "Ohio". " Soldiers are gunning us down , what if you new her and found her dead on the ground how could you run when you know?" This event shook up the nation, perhaps one of the first acts of lethal violence on a college campus. It caused a nationwide student strike that forced hundreds of colleges and universities to close.

With all the controversy going on in the United State pop culture was taking a strong hold on our youth. A hold that we still reminisce about today. Some fads popular in the 1970's were mood rings, lava lamps, Rubik's cube, sea monkeys, smiley face stickers, and pet rocks. Streaking nude in public was witnessed on many occasions and everyone vacationed in station wagons and wanted R.V.'s. Men still wore long hair and non-traditional clothing was a big deal. Fashions like leisure suits, platform shoes, earth shoes, clogs, t-shirt's, and gypsy dresses were very popular. Some popular movies were Annie Hall, Star Wars, Airport, Love Story, Shaft, The Fiddler on the Roof, Clockwork Orange, The Godfather, and The Poseidon Adventure. Popular literature hit on the themes of man's alienation from his spiritual roots. Author , John Updike portrayed characters trying to find meanings in a society spiritually empty and and in a state of moral decay .Hence, the government during this time. Author, Joyce Carol Oates wrote of the search for spiritual meaning in a contemporary society and the power hungry materialism that prevaded it. The strongest literary voice which emerged from this decade was Toni Morrison. An African American women whom examined the Black American experience as never before. While Toni Morrison was breaking through the literary world the number of black members in congress increased. Cities such as L.A., Detroit, and Atlanta elected their first African American Mayors. Women also had a voice that resounded during this decade. Women were busy expanding their involvement in politics and asserting their rights to quality education and jobs.The influence of a women's movement in the art world was represented by Linda Berglis, Jackie Winsor, and Judy Chicago who created a feminist art exhibition. During the 1970's women found their way as independent from men. They received their own education, jobs, art scene, political views, and rights. With rights, Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion which signified a women's right to choose as well. Homosexuals were also making their voices heard just as women and African Americans by demanding equal rights. Native American's also affirmed there plight with The 1975 Indian Self-determination Act. Which encouraged Indians to take control of their own education and promote tribal customs.

The 1970's were a continence of social changes, the Vietnam War, and equal rights issues that the 1960's began. Rock N' Roll broadened it's scope from the sugary pop music of the 1960's to a multitude of styles. We were introduced to soft rock, folk rock, hard rock, country rock, punk rock, and the dance craze that rocked the decade, DISCO! The music of the 1970's showed off a dark side we seemed to have missed to a great extent during the 1960's. This was especially prevalent at the beginning of the 1970's when the nation was dealt the blows of Elvis Presely, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison's untimely deaths all related to drugs. The Beatles broke up and then there was Disco. Either you loved it and couldn't wait to boogy on down to it or you couldn't stand the commercialism of it. Some say people sought refuge in the dance clubs from the ongoing war and other political turmoils and that is how and where Disco emerged . It was a flamboyant scene at popular disco clubs like" Studio 54" and "Paradise Garage", where it was nothing short of a warped fashion show for the elite ,especially at Studio 54 where it was near impossible to gain entry if you were the average Joe. Disco music had multi - ethnic audiences by a strong - hold especially after the hit movie classic " Saturday Night Fever" and " Thank God it's Friday" made there screen debuts. And with every good music scene especially one so avant- garde drugs ran rampant. Drugs that enhanced the disco dance scene where drugs that gave you the energy to dance all night and complimented the loud music and flashing lights. These drugs were cocaine , known as " blow", amyl nitrite known as " poppers" , and Quaaludes known as the quintessential 1970's club drug. Cocaine gave you endless energy ( as long as you kept doing it) , amyl nitrite enhanced sexual feelings, and Quaaludes suspended motor coordination and turned one's arms and legs to Jell-O. With all the drug use, promiscuity ran rampant between heterosexuals and homosexuals. The disco was the perfect place to seduce and the actual sex took place in the nether regions of the disco : bathroom stalls. exit stairwells, and so on. Some popular disco artists included : Van McCoy's " The Hustle" ( many claim that this track was the first disco track ever made), Gloria Gaynor's " I Will Survive" , The Bee Gees " Jive Talkin", and " Stayin' Alive", and The Village People's " YMCA". Disco's popularity was short lived and people soon began to see disco's silliness and commercialism- something that was rebelled against a few years earlier. Other successful and prominent artists from this period where : Aerosmith, David Bowie, Jackson Browne, Alice Cooper, The Eagles, Electric Light Orchestra, Emerson , Lake , and Palmer, Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Three Dog Night, and The Who. Also, easy listening made it's appearance and Reggae got introduced making Bob Marley a groundbreaking new artist.

The seventies were full of historical changes. There was a shift from the 1960's social activism to social activities for one's pleasure such as all night disco's and drug use. Women, gays, and minorities fought for equal rights at home, in society, and in the work place. There was a growing loss of ground in the government, nuclear families, and religion. I will end this article on the culture of the 1970's, with an appropriate quote which I believe sums up this decade, by Herbert Hoover. "When there is lack of honor in government the moral's of the whole people are poisoned."

 

More about this author: Rebecca Klemmensen

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