From "White Christmas" to Sgt. Pepper: The Conceptual Revolution in Popular Music
NBER Working Paper No. 13308
Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and other songwriters of the Golden Era wrote popular songs that treated common topics clearly and simply. During the mid-1960s Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney created a new kind of popular music that was personal and often obscure. This shift, which transformed popular music from an experimental into a conceptual art, produced a distinct change in the creative life cycles of songwriters. Golden Era songwriters were generally at their best during their 30s and 40s, whereas since the mid-'60s popular songwriters have consistently done their best work during their 20s. The revolution in popular music occurred at a time when young innovators were making similar transformations in other arts: Jean-Luc Godard and his fellow New Wave directors created a conceptual revolution in film in the early '60s, just as Andy Warhol and other Pop artists made painting a conceptual activity.