Los Angeles Troubadours: The Politics of the Singer-Songwriter Movement, 1968–1975 Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Bentley, Christa
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music, Musicology Graduate Program
  • Between 1968 and 1975, the political rhetoric and activist strategies of United States social movements transitioned from communalism and mass protests to a language of individualism and personal politics. This dissertation argues that the contemporary singer-songwriter movement in Los Angeles provides a window into the major cultural and political shifts of the 1970s. Its musical aesthetic, which promoted confessional songwriting and self-reflection, encapsulated this rise in individualism. Using ethnographic research with participants of the singer-songwriter movement, I construct a cultural history that demonstrates how this music played a significant role shaping the personal politics of the women’s movement and anti-war ideologies. Chapter 1 traces the singer-songwriter movement as an extension of the acoustic performance practices established during the United States folk revival. Chapter 2 explores the local music scene in Los Angeles that fostered the singer-songwriter movement, investigating how live performance practices influenced the discourses of authenticity surrounding the singer-songwriter as intimate, vulnerable, and personal. Chapter 3 compares the personal narratives of confessional songs to the organizing strategies of second wave feminisms, showing how music by singer-songwriters acted as a form of consciousness-raising within the context of the U.S. women’s movement. Chapter 4 examines personal rhetoric in a second social movement—anti-Vietnam War protests—illustrating the ways in which confessional songs mirrored the new language of dissent among anti-war activists. Chapter 5 examines the impact of the 1970s singer-songwriter movement on the present day Los Angeles scene and looks at the legacy of the political work singer-songwriters engage in the twenty-first century. Such an examination reveals how the singer-songwriter movement articulated highly politicized sentiments through their personal songwriting, shaping the discourses of protest in the United States during the 1970s.
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  • In Copyright
  • Katz, Mark
  • Neal, Jocelyn
  • Fauser, Annegret
  • Garcia, David
  • Rivers Ndaliko, Chérie
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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