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Riders of the storm

Two groups born out of a need to change the world using poetry and music

The rock musicians of the 1970s and the Romantic poets of the 18th century may seem poles apart, but they had a lot in common — including rebellion, substance abuse, a certain philosophy, and a die-young attitude. Their verses were a beacon to a tardy society, though the question is: did human minds see it?

The 1970s were a time for the creation of an overture in music. The bebops of the 1940s were slammed. New and brazen tones came in, and an electronic wave bashed contemporary values. The new kind of music called for socio-cultural change also. Though these changes seemed to represent much more of a revolution, this was just the indelible atavism of the human mind. This was a new version of the 18th century “Age of Johnson”, an outcry for liberty.

A radical change was brought about in music and lyrics. The tenor, baritone and bass of the 1950s were flayed. Realistic verses, which portrayed the acrimony of human life, and the grungy and fuzzy tones, set the tone for the music of the 1970s. Songs such as moonlight drive and purple haze resonated with a new wave of change. Bob Dylan’s “blown in the wind” inspired Jimi Hendrix to experiment with a kind of song-writing to break away from the customary love-lorn songs and infuse political awareness into their music. Jim Morrison was considered a poet in his own right, having published volumes of poetry, including “The Lords” and “American Night”. His poetic style was often compared to that of Arthur Rimban, the 19th century French poet. The songs by the greatest songwriters of the era were an impetus to social change in the 1970s, to which the Hippie revolution was a bolster.

While drugs are supposed to have fuelled the creativity and excess of rock n’ roll, the Romantics were also largely the same when it came to drug use. Coleridge’s surreal “Kubla Khan” owes something to opium. Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix fall into a “live free, die young” cult; most of them did hardly see 27 summers.

Though they were born in different eras, both groups were born out of a need to change the world using poetry and music. Jimi Hendrix said: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Society was touched by their idiosyncrasies and transformed by their works. They all urged us to break the paltry credences of this material world to realise that a peaceful world is not necessarily an El Dorado. If their poetry aimed to achieve anything, it was to deliver people from the limited vision.

ajaybornleo@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 9:20:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/Riders-of-the-storm/article14257223.ece

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