The 1970s came on the heels of one of the most progressive decades in history, so some kind of backlash was to be expected. Dino Valenti’s message of “love one another right now” faded into distant memory as fear, conflict and violence dominated public consciousness. I look at the history of the era and it seems to me that everyone was pissed off about something: inflation, busing, Nixon, Carter, wars, blackouts, psychotic serial killers, terrorists, free agency in baseball, OPEC . . . you name it. Given all the bad vibes, it’s no wonder that 70’s people would find comfort in take-no-prisoners-just-kill-them-all heroes like Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson, and seek serenity in the mindless superficiality of K. C. and the Sunshine Band.

Glad I missed it!

The diversity of rock music in the ’60s hardened into fragmentation in the ’70s. In the ’60s rock was a very broad and encompassing field that covered everyone from Herman’s Hermits to Jimi Hendrix. By the end of the 70s rock had split into various sub-genres (hard rock, classic rock, progressive, metal, glam, punk, new wave, etc.) and the average fan began to identify with a single genre that suited the image they wanted to project to the world. When the self-image identifies strongly with any movement—whether it’s political, religious or artistic—things can get pretty nasty and unnecessarily judgmental (a tendency best demonstrated by the war between punks and progressives). Eventually, those genres would form a neighborhood of musical cul-de-sacs where people take great pains to avoid those who live in a cul-de-sac that is not their own.

This fragmentation is a good news/bad news kind of thing. The good news is today’s fan can find a radio station or streaming service that caters to their individual tastes and avoid having to listen to what they think is crap. I’m very proud of the fact that I do not own a single fragment of music from any of the most successful artists of the 21st Century. The bad news is the loss of shared cultural experience—it gets harder and harder to put together a singalong party when people don’t know the same songs.

Such is part of the legacy of the ’70s. Despite the negative long-term effects on social cohesion, the ’70s turned out to be a great decade for music because the fragmentation resulted in further expansion of the boundaries of rock.

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