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The beat goes on

critical listening skills, evaluating each song by categories such as whether it was good, important and/or sophisticated. During one two-hour session, Drs. Blessing and Aracena took students on a tour of 1959 through music that topped the charts that year, playing YouTube videos through a state-of-theart sound system in a first-floor classroom in Francis Hall. There was nothing magical about this tour, and the only mystery was how such an odd assortment of music could co-exist on the same pop charts. Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn Theme.” Dave Brubeck’s jazz classic “Take Five.” Mary Martin singing “My Favorite Things” from the Broadway musical “The Sound of Music.” And a motley mix of hits that included the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the consumerist confectionary of “Pink Shoelaces” by Dodie Stevens, the rollicking class clown tribute “Charlie Brown” by The Coasters, and the patriotic country hokum of “Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton. What’s missing is anything that remotely resembles the classic rock ‘n’ roll of the mid1950s, much less a bridge to the more creative rock music that exploded. There’s a good reason for that, as Blessing recounts: Elvis was in the Army. Little Richard had renounced the devil’s music to go into the ministry

28 Alvernia University Magazine

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and record gospel music. Chuck Berry was arrested for transporting a 14-yearold girl across state lines in violation of the Mann Act. Jerry Lee Lewis had married his 13-year-old cousin. Bill Haley had rocked around the clock, but his time ran out. And Buddy Holly was dead, killed in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa, that also claimed the lives of Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper on Feb. 3, 1959 — an event that singer-songwriter Don McLean memorialized more than a decade later as “the day the music died.” “Essentially, that first rock impulse is gone,” Blessing says. “And this is just a guess and there’s no way I could prove this, but I think if other things hadn’t happened, the rock era would have been a relatively short one.”

Flashbacks Two historic events that are forever linked had a lot to do with what followed: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas, and the arrival of The Beatles in New York City, heralding the start of the British Invasion, less than three months later. Bruce Posten, a veteran reporter for the Reading Eagle, calls the Kennedy assassination “a seminal moment” for the nation. Along with his newspaper colleague Ron Devlin, Posten taught a Seniors College class at Alvernia earlier this year that

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brought together about 20 adults over age 55 to study the event’s implications and share their memories and experiences. Nov. 22, 1963, was undoubtedly a watershed moment in history. The biggest change, Posten says, is “how you became aware.” It marked the last time daily newspapers broke “a major deadline story,” he says, with afternoon papers publishing special editions that landed on the doorsteps of factory workers as they got home from work. “Conversely, ’63 was the first time television news came into its own, because for four days of live, constant coverage you were watching the events subsequent to the assassination,” Posten says. “This was the first signal, although I’m sure nobody saw it at the time, of the change in (how we get) our information.” In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, a grieving nation — or at least its burgeoning, post-World War II youth who would later come to be known as the baby boomers — found “the antidote to all 

Alvernia Magazine Summer 2014  
Alvernia Magazine Summer 2014  

Alvernia Magazine Summer 2014