E-Net News

Winter class explores music of ’60s & ’70s

When is a song not just entertainment, but a window into the past? A new Winter Term 2008 course offered Elon students a chance to explore one of the most tumultuous periods – socially and politically – of American history through the music of its era.

“People always look back and say this time period was the ‘good old days,’” says Jim Roberts, who taught the Winter Term course on music of the 1960s and 1970s. “They weren’t the good old days – there was turmoil there.”

The sounds of a vintage Led Zeppelin record provided a fitting backdrop on a recent January day as students filed into “Woodstock, Hippies and Other Enduring Legacies: Music of the '60s and '70s,” which was led by Jim Roberts, an adjunct instructor in the department of music.

At its core, the class is a fusion of music and history.  On the wall of the classroom is a time line between 1960 and 1980, spanning history from the FDA’s approval of birth control to the release of the film “Apocalypse Now.”  Students are tasked with illustrating how the music of each era ties in with the historical context of the day.

Roberts lists the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy assassination and the civil rights movement among events that created a “perfect storm” for musical expression. 

“People always look back and say this time period was the ‘good old days,’” he says.  “They weren’t the good old days – there was turmoil there.”

It’s not all gloomy. Students also get the chance to explore the colorful worlds of fashion, hippies and even hair in relation to music. While some students come in relatively unfamiliar with the songs and artists they encounter, many of them were practically raised on them.

“The class gives you a different view of this generation – not strictly historical, but cultural,” says junior Sara Gould. “I grew up listening to this music and now I realize the breadth of it all.”

Roberts began teaching at Elon this fall and specializes in percussion. His passion for percussion across different cultures has led him to travel to places like West Africa, Brazil, Cuba and India.

In 1995, he moved to Nashville, where his experiences included playing percussion for country singer Billy Dean while on tour with Reba McEntire.  He remains active in both producing and performing while currently residing in Chapel Hill.
As the hippies of yesteryear grow older, Roberts recognizes the importance of imparting knowledge of this rich musical period to his students.

“There will be a time when those people won’t be around,” he says.  “The students are becoming the historians.”

- Article by Bobby Hoppey '09

Eric Townsend,
1/28/2008 10:24 AM