Sticking it to the Man – Six Decades of Teen Angst (The 60s)

by Sarah Gray

What rock and roll began in the 50s really started coming to fruition as a cultural movement in the 1960s.  Music played an important role in the countercultural movement, which divided strongly along generational lines.  The teen angst songs of the 60s lean toward the highly political, with the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights and Feminist Movements unfolding in the background.  While the 50s teen angst songs focused more on subverting parental authority and tradition, the 60s teen angst songs remind us that social change comes from the young.  Despite taking on a particularly political feel given the current events at the time, the essential message is the same as all teen angst songs.  The way adults are going about things is wrong and we have some better ideas.  On top of which, we kind of resent you for making us have to point this all out to you.

1 – The Doors – The End (1967)

This is the end.  Yes, yes it is.  Everything is pretty much down hill from here.  And, in case your parents imagine you are secretly well adjusted, you can blast the line “Father / Yes son / I want to kill you.”  As any proper Greek myth will tell you, the only way to truly move forward is to kill your dad.

2 – Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son (1969)

Dear America, Um, ahem, Vietnam is a terrible idea and not going well and it is kind of bullshit that only the underprivileged are being forced to fight this war that we have all but definitively determined is unwinnable.

Dear Creedence Clearwater, it is 2014 and we have aggressively made no progress.

3- Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)

“Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.”  This is the battle cry of the 1960s youth movement.  Dylan could not be clearer: things are changing, the old is being replaced, so get on board or get out of the way.

4 – Leslie Gore – You Don’t Own Me (1964)

The lyrics pretty much speak for themselves:

Don’t tell me what to do.  Don’t tell me what to say.  I’m young, and I love to be young.  I’m free, and I love to be free.

5 – Aretha Franklin –Think (1968)

I appreciate that this song is really about something else entirely, but I still think the lyrics work great as an outcry against being grounded.  Plus, if there is anyone better to blast in the background while you are being self-righteous than Aretha Franklin, I can’t imagine who it is.

Check Back Next Friday for 5 More From the 70s.

3 thoughts on “Sticking it to the Man – Six Decades of Teen Angst (The 60s)

  1. I’m afraid that I disagree with your post. The 50’s songs of rebellion against parental control – being grounded etc. are not the same as a young generation, many of whom would be in their twenties, discussing international politics. Describing ‘The Times They are A-Changin” as ‘teen angst’ is surely to diminish its very mature sentiments. Also, ‘Think’ is clearly about a relationship problem between two adults.

  2. Most music is written and performed by adults. The point is how teens co-opt those songs into their own experience. Of course Think is about an adult relationship. So is the Leslie Gore song. That doesn’t mean there aren’t lyrics that lend themselves to an experience teens can relate to. Are you honestly suggesting that 16 years olds in the 1960s weren’t listening to Bob Dylan just to piss their parents off? I think that is arguably naive. And despite the fact that how much maturity it takes to see what anyone with eyes and a newspaper could clearly see and putting that to music could be disputed in and of itself, teen angst is part of the process of maturity. It is one of the first steps of really establishing yourself as an individual.

  3. You didn’t get the feminist songs at all. They are about women and girls recognizing and speaking up about female oppression, subjugation, and empowerment.

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