Not Quite Summer Break

As I’m writing this the teachers aren’t quite on summer break. One more day of meetings and such and then we can enjoy a little R & R.

Speaking of Renaissance and Reformation, I’ve posted the requirements for the summer assignment on the class assignments. If you need an extra copy click on it to download one. Remember to get started early.

Check back here soon for more interesting summer goings on.

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Rock and Roll Listening Assignment #7

The Rolling Stones ultimately made their mark as the nonconformist outlaws of Rock and Roll. But before they were bad boys, the Stones were missionaries of the Blues. The young Rolling Stones — Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wyman — were white kids who hailed from working- and middle-class Britain and set out to play American music, primarily that of African Americans with roots in the South. In so doing, they helped bring this music to a new, largely white audience, both in Britain and the United States.

The young men who formed the Rolling Stones emerged from the club scene fostered by British Blues pioneers Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner. These two men and their band, Blues Incorporated, helped popularize the American Blues, whose raw intensity resonated with a generation of Britons who had grown up in the shadow of war, death, the Blitz, postwar rationing, and the hardening of the Cold War standoff. Much of the Stones’ early work consisted of faithful covers of American Blues artists that Davies, Korner, and the Stones venerated: Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Slim Harpo, Jimmy Reed.

The early Stones in particular helped make the Blues wildly popular among young Britons. As the Stones’ fame grew and they became part of the mid-1960s British “invasion” of America, they also reintroduced the Blues to American listeners, most notably young, white audiences with limited exposure to the music.

But almost from day one, the Stones were more than a Blues cover band. If at first their Blues covers were somewhat imitative, in time they put an increasingly original spin on their Blues recordings. Additionally, they soon enough ventured beyond the Blues to other American genres, covering songs by R&B and Country artists.



Assignment – Imagine that you are visiting London during the period 1963-65, and use the series of primary source materials to guide you through your “travels.” Follow the instructions on the handouts and listen to the corresponding audio pieces.


Videos for Postcard 1

Videos for Postcard 2

Videos for Postcard 3

Videos for Postcard 4

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Rock and Roll Listening Assignment #5

Beatles First Appearance on Ed Sullivan Show

Beatles – I Want to Hold Your Hand

Hard Day’s Night Trailer 1

Hard Day’s Night Trailer 2


Brian Epstein and the Beatles

Watch the video interview linked below and fill out the note taking sheet I gave you.

Interview with Brian Epstein


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Rock and Roll Listening Assignment #4

Cars had been part of the American experience since the early twentieth century. In 1908, Henry Ford debuted his assembly-line produced Model T. The car’s relatively low price and interchangeable parts enabled many middle- and working class Americans to own, and maintain, a car for the first time. The auto industry boomed through the 1920s, but with the onset of the Great Depression, sales began a sharp decline. In early 1942, America’s entry into World War II necessitated a complete halt in the production of domestic passenger vehicles while auto factories were reconfigured for wartime contracts. With no new models available for the duration of the war, car culture was effectively on hiatus.

After the Allied powers achieved victory in both the Pacific and European theaters, Americans were filled with a sense of confidence, optimism, and national pride at levels they had never before experienced. Additionally, because the battles of WWII had not been fought on American soil, the U.S. was in a unique position not to rebuild from the destruction caused by the war, but rather to expand. As soldiers returned home and began to buy houses and start families, suburban communities developed around cities, necessitating not only new roads, but an abundance of brand new cars to drive those roads. By the time civilian auto production resumed in 1946, many Americans had not owned a new car since before the Depression — if they had ever owned a car at all. With the postwar economy surging, car sales in the United States skyrocketed. The creation of an interstate highway system in 1956 further transformed where people lived, how they got around, who they socialized with, and how they spent their money. A rising population of teenagers, born after the war into a country enjoying an unprecedented surge of prosperity, soon forged an intense and energetic relationship with cars as they became old enough to receive their driver’s permits.

By the early 1960s, the intersection of car culture and Rock and Roll was well-established and vibrant. Transistor radios became a standard feature on many new car models, allowing increasing numbers of Americans to listen to music while on the road. Songs including Chuck Berry’s “No Money Down,” Jan & Dean’s “Surf City,” and the Beach Boys’ “Fun, Fun, Fun” emphasized the extent to which the automobile had captured the nation’s imagination. The very act of driving had come to symbolize a new-found freedom of movement, particularly for American teenagers.



The Beach Boys – Fun, Fun, Fun

Jan and Dean – Surf City

Bruce Springsteen – Racing in the Street

Jackie Robinson and His Delta Cats – Rocket 88


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Rock and Roll Listening Assignment #3

The Rise of the Girl Group. Early rock wasn’t just a bunch of dudes.

Read the intro text and listen/watch the songs I’ve linked. There’s no written assignment for this one, but consider this question. Were the girl groups of the 1960s voices of female empowerment or reflections of traditional female roles?

Tucked between the popularity of the early Rock and Rollers and the mid-1960s British Invasion was the phenomenon known as the “Girl Groups.” With names like the Bobbettes, the Shangri-Las, the Ronettes and the Chantelles, they offered a style rich in vocal harmonies that was eagerly embraced by a wide audience.

A number of Girl Group hit songs were co-written by female songwriters, including Carole King, Ellie Greenwich, Cynthia Weil, and Florence Greenberg (who also launched her own record label and whose life served as the basis for the 2011 Broadway musical Baby It’s You). If, up to that point, male voices and male songwriters dominated the popular music scene, things were changing. Rock and Roll had a new female sound that produced a string of hits.

The Girl Groups rarely if ever performed material they had written themselves and rarely if ever played the instruments featured on their recordings, a job left to male studio musicians. Lyrically, most of their songs — from the Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love” to the Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back” — focused on the males in their lives and the promise of a satisfying relationship with that perfect guy. But there was nonetheless something new at work: a female voice was emerging despite it all. (Teach Rock)


The Ronettes – Be My Baby

The Shirelles – Will You Love Me Tomorrow

The Angels – My Boyfriend’s Back

The Dixie Cups – Chapel of Love


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Rock and Roll Listening Assignment #2


The American Dream—the idea that every person who calls him or herself an American has the opportunity to achieve a better life, to find a voice within the structure of the “nation,” to rise—is a concept that deeply permeates our American identity. (Teach Rock)

Elvis in a lot of ways embodied the American Dream as many people saw it.

Just listen to his voice! The dude could sing! Even if you don’t listen to the whole album at least take a look at the song titles and skip around a bit to hear the variety.

Lastly listen/watch this news clip of the 25th anniversary of his death.



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Rock and Roll Listening Assignment #1

The influences on rock and roll, like so much in American history, can be traced back to slavery.

Because of American slavery, African Americans had lived as a displaced people. In some ways, the experience of the Great Migration continued this displacement story. The Blues articulated the troubles people faced when uprooting their lives, and allowed migrants a means to connect as they struggled to survive in northern cities. When Muddy Waters sang “I Feel Like Going Home,” one of the first songs he recorded in Chicago, or when Howlin’ Wolf bellowed “Smokestack Lightnin’,” a song built around the image of a moving train, their audiences were familiar with the longing and imagery expressed in the songs. Oftentimes, listeners felt a shared sense of community when they heard the music; they had watched the same trains pass through the country towards new opportunities in the North. African Americans who migrated often reflected back on the places from which they had come, and the Blues served as a link between their old homes and their new urban lives.

When Phil and Leonard Chess, two Polish immigrants living in Chicago, began to search for artists to record on their Chess record label in the late 1940s, they decided to focus on Blues artists whose music appealed to the emerging urban African-American community. Through the 1950s and 1960s, Chess recorded artists including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Willie Dixon, in addition to Blues-influenced artists such as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, who crossed over into Pop. Like Muddy Waters, most of these musicians had migrated from the South.

The repercussions of the Great Migration are far-reaching. Today, much of the restlessness and struggle that the Blues helped to articulate in the Migration era remains central in other forms of American music, including Hip Hop. Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf are case studies that illustrate why African Americans left the South in record numbers and how communities came together in new urban environments, often around the sound of the Blues.

(Teach Rock)


Below are links to two of the blues songs mentioned above. Listen and see if you can pick out the pieces of the blues that would later become rock and roll.

Howlin’ Wolf – Smokestack Lightning – The announcer is pretty hilarious too.

Muddy Waters – I Feel Like Going Home

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