Destrung: The Guitar as an American Icon of Liberation and Rebellion
Smith, Colin S.
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The thesis focuses on the guitar as a tool of personal liberation from outside oppression. The guitar bridged cultures, as the blues blended black field hollers, work songs, church spirituals, as well as the structure, forms, and conventions of the traditional ballads brought from the British Isles and played in the Appalachians. After World War II, when swing music declined, one form of popular music was built around the guitar with rhythm and blues which would become rock and roll after white men translated the style from blacks. Although guitar-based music would later bridge high art and popular culture (especially in the era of progressive rock and jazz fusion), it is not always considered a tool for high art because it has been the instrument of the common man or woman. Ever since the Sears Roebuck catalog brought the guitar via mail-order to poor white and black people, it has been an instrument of the amateur. And thus, unlike ornate violins or expensive pianos and saxophones, it is an extension of the common man. This narrative is not only prevalent in the realm of blues, country, and early rock music, but also in new genres such as metal, punk, and other offshoots of rock. Because this research fits under American studies, it will not mention much of British rock music. The scope of this project has been narrowed during the period of research: this thesis focuses on the beginnings of blues in the 1900s as well as rock in the early 1950s and 1960s with a coda on how guitar music after these times that are covered in this piece of writing was used to amplify their a person's voice as liberation in the face of social, economic, or political oppression. Above all, the guitar alleviated tensions for the players, because it became an inexpensive instrument, it was easy to learn, and it granted performers more money to those especially without much prospect.