From "White Christmas" to Sgt. Pepper: The Conceptual Revolution in Popular Music

49 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2007 Last revised: 17 Oct 2007

See all articles by David W. Galenson

David W. Galenson

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: August 2007

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Galenson, David W., From "White Christmas" to Sgt. Pepper: The Conceptual Revolution in Popular Music (August 2007). NBER Working Paper No. w13308. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1005910

David W. Galenson (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

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