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Journal of the Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association

Volume 12, Number 1 (2012)

Race, Hegemony, and the Birth of Rock & Roll

Paul Linden
University of Southern Mississippi


This study reconsiders the filiation connecting Rock & Roll to (Rhythm &) Blues music forms along the lines of race and corporate ownership. The career of Elvis Presley offers a perspective on the translation of musical forms between marginalized, African American and mainstream popular culture. Comparison of terms including “blanching,” “erasure,” “assimilation” and “subsumption” provides objective distance for reassessing the birth of Rock & Roll as cultural translation. Cultural theorists Antonio Gramsci, Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno speak to the issue of popular art forms as an agent of social change. In support of this theoretical perspective, we subvert celebratory history of radio DJs John Richbourg, Will Allen and Gene Nobles to reveal hegemonic reification of the status quo. The larger cultural context of the late 50s and early 60s further supports our reading of the need to anesthetize mainstream America against the threat of black culture by rebranding it with a new white idol (Elvis) and a new, institutionally backed, sexualized dance (the Twist).

Keywords: Rock and roll, rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, Elvis Presley, cultural studies, cultural translation, race, the Twist, assimilation, deejays, John Richbourg, Will Allen, Gene Nobles

Linden, Paul. “Race, Hegemony, and the Birth of Rock & Roll.” Journal of the Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association 12, no. 1 (2012): 43-67. https://doi.org/10.25101/12.2

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