Four decades later Woodstock, Beatles and rock music still rules
August 19, 2009
The original Woodstock Music & Art Festival recently celebrated its
fortieth anniversary. As a momentous cultural event Woodstock's
enduring impact on the music and entertainment industry is not lost
on the folks at Rasmussen and Pew Research
Peace & love vibes may have reigned supreme in 1969 but four decades
later less than four in ten Americans are convinced a similar sized
festival could gather peacefully.
According to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll 39% of responders said
Woodstock's success in that regard could be repeated. 34% disagreed
however with a large 27% suggesting they were uncertain and likely
skeptical. Over 400,000 attended the original Woodstock festival at
Max Yasgur's six hundred acre farm in the small rural town of Bethel
New York. While there were three accidental deaths, one rumored
birth, a rain soaked audience and numerous facility issues the event
was, on the whole, a massive success.
The most skeptical age-bracket are those old enough to remember the
original Woodstock of forty years ago. Whereas 44% of younger
Americans aged 18-29 and 53% of those in their 30s are optimistic a
peaceful festival could be held with an audience that large, older
citizens share a much more pessimistic view. 36% of those aged 50-64
think a crowd of 400,000 could pull off a peaceful display but just
20% of seniors 65 and over share in that opinion.
The optimism of thirty-somethings, nine percentage-points higher than
the 18-29 year old crowd may look surprising at first glance. Perhaps
their respective perceptions of civil obedience are affected by other
Woodstock festivals. Most of the younger crowd surveyed here by
Rasmussen may only remember the disastrous of events of Woodstock III
held in 1999 when violence and destruction tainted the 30th
anniversary proceedings. The 25th anniversary Woodstock II from 1994
on the other hand, a hallmark cultural event for many of those now in
their 30s, was a far more pleasant affair.
Large festivals from the 60s and early-70s like Woodstock have had
their moments of social and musical bliss as well as civil
disobedience. The massively influential Monterey Pop Festival of 1967
drew around 200,000 fans in a peaceful affair of cultural "Flower
Power". California's Altamont Speedway headlined by the Rolling
Stones was marred by disorganization and violence resulting in the
death of one concert attendee.
1970's massive Isle of Wight Festival in England was the last of its
kind for over three decades with its proceedings marred by logistical
problems and an, at times, unruly audience. Summer Jam at Watkins
Glen from 1973 meanwhile holds the distinction of the largest
festival in history with over 600,000 attendees and no major reports
Clearly inspired by the Woodstock anniversary Pew Research polled on
a number of topics relating to the generation gap of today as opposed
to the 1960s. What they found was a far more "subdued affair" today
than the generational war waged four decades ago.
Rock and roll in particular has ventured from the defiant cultural
soundtrack of the 60s to the most popular and accessible form of
music in the 2000s. Rock music was largely reviled in 1966 when polls
indicated that by a staggering eleven-to-one ratio (44-4%) more
people claimed to dislike the format over those who considered it
their favorite. In 2009 now 65% of the 1,815 people age sixteen and
over surveyed by Pew said they listened to rock music "some" of the
time or "often". Only 22% now claim to "never" listen to it. Other
rock influenced genres of popular music also score high including
modern country, R&B and Rap/Hip-Hop.
By age group rock music's appeal tapers off significantly only in the
over-65 age bracket with just 8% listening to it often. Rap/Hip-Hop
is almost as popular as rock music for 16 to 29-year olds (45-41%),
but it too plummets in popularity with age groups after that. Country
is statically the most stable category of music appealing to age
groups of 16-29, 30-49, 50-64, and 65+ by percentages of 25, 21, 31,
and 37% respectively. In terms of political groups Republicans show a
slight preference for country, Democrats put rock and R&B at a
statistical dead-heat atop and independents go for rock, followed by
country, then R&B music.
Lastly Pew asked its responders to rate twenty different performers
who represent different musical eras and styles since the 1940s. Of
the top-20 performers a total of seven (Beatles, Rolling Stones,
Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane,
Grateful Dead) were associated with the 1960s. In terms of approval
ratings the Beatles score the highest at 81%, followed by Elvis
Presley at 79%, the Eagles at 77% Johnny Cash with 76%, and recently
deceased Michael Jackson locked with the still active Rolling Stones at 75%.
The common denominator between generations seems to be the Beatles.
The Fab Four from Liverpool continue to garner admiration from
listeners well entrenched or born years after their 1970 breakup. The
Beatles finish just behind Michael Jackson on this Pew Research list
of twenty major acts for younger listeners between ages 16-29. They
are actually third in the 30-49 grouping behind Jackson and easy
listening rock band the Eagles. John, Paul, George and Ringo are
fourth amongst the 65 and older crowd and tops for those performers
who began their careers in the 1960s or later. Finally the Beatles
are phenomenally popular with baby boomers aged 50-64. The number of
those saying they "like" the British legends "a lot" stands at a lofty 65%.