The Beat of Rock Music
August 2, 2023
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Atmospheres are going to come through music, because the music is a spiritual thing of its own..”

-- Jimi Hendrix  

Secular writings about rock music frequently refer to rock rhythms as “dirty,” “sexy,” “vulgar,” “sensual,” “titillating,” “flirtatious,” “violent,” “driving,” etc. This reminds us that music is not a neutral thing. Music, even without words, is a language.

Many have noticed the effect of music on small children. When our oldest daughter was very young and we were visiting someone’s home, she heard a rock song for the first time and started dancing to it even though she had never been around rock music, had not been conditioned to respond in any certain way, and she could not understand the words. The rhythm of the music itself affected her physically.

The following statements from rock musicians and rock researchers affirm this:

Atmospheres are going to come through music, because the music is a spiritual thing of its own ... you hypnotize people to where they go right back to their natural state which is pure positive ... and when you get people at that weakest point, you can preach into the subconscious what we want to say ... People want release any kind of way nowadays. The idea is to release in the proper form. Then they’ll feel like going into another world, a clearer world. The music flows from the air; that’s why I connect with a spirit, and when they come down off this natural high, they see clearer, feel different things...” (Jimi Hendrix, Life, Oct. 3, 1969, p. 74).

“Don’t listen to the words,
it’s the music that has its own message. ... I’ve been stoned on the music many times” (Timothy Leary, New Age guru and promoter of LSD, Politics of Ecstasy).

In all pop music lyrics are secondary. Pop is music of feeling, spoken primarily to the body and only secondarily to the intellect” (Graham Cray, former Chairman of the Greenbelt Committee, Greenbelt Christian Rock Concerts).

Most rock records make their impact musically rather than lyrically. The words, if they are noticed at all, are absorbed after the music has made its mark” (Simon Frith, sociology professor at University of Warwick in England, Sound Effects, New York: Pantheon Books, 1981, p. 14).

Words are incidental at best, or monotonous and moronic as usual. But the point is, that they don’t matter. What you dance to is the beat, the bass and drums. And with this mix and volume, not only is the beat sensed, but literally felt, as this aspect of the rhythm section takes precedence over melody and harmony” (Dr. Steven Halpern, Tuning the Human Instrument, Belmont, Calif.: Spectrum Research Institute, 1978, p. 14).

“We respond to
the materiality of rock’s sounds, and the rock experience is essentially erotic” (Simon Frith, Sound Effects, New York: Pantheon Books, 1981, p. 164).

There is a great deal of powerful, albeit subliminal, sexual stimulation implicit in both the rhythm and [the] lyrics of rock music” (Dr. David Elkind, chairman of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study at Tufts University in Massachusetts, The Hurried Child, Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley Publishing Co., 1981, p. 89).

Rock is visceral. It does disturbing things to your body. In spite of yourself, you find your body tingling, moving with the music. ... To get into rock, you have to give in to it, let it inside, flow with it, to the point where it consumes you, and all you can feel or hear or think about is the music. ... Such open sensuality” (Tom McSloy, rock music performer, “Music to Jangle Your Insides,” National Review, June 30, 1970, p. 681).

“Adolf Hitler, ancient Greek orators, the Beatles and African witch doctors all practiced a similar type of brainwashing. . . . People can be brainwashed to believe sense or nonsense. . . .
Rhythmic music and dancing are ways of getting at the nervous system. [I will show some] movies demonstrating how the primitive rhythms of a Stone Age tribe in Kenya and a band at a London ball produce the same trancelike emotions” (William Sargant, Witchita Beacon, Feb. 17, 1965, p. 11A; Dr. Sargant, head of the Psychological Medicine Department at St. Thomas Hospital in London, spoke these words in an address to the Royal Society of Medicine).

“A new music emerged, again completely nonintellectual, with
a thumping rhythm and shouting voices, each line and each beat full of the angry insult to all western valuestheir protest is in their music itself as well as in the words, for anyone who thinks that this is all cheap and no more than entertainment has never used his ears” (H.R. Rookmaaker, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, pp. 188, 189).

The great strength of rock ‘n’ roll lies in its beat … it is a music which is basically sexual, un-Puritan … and a threat to established patterns and values” (Irwin Silber, Marxist, Sing Out, May 1965, p. 63).

“For white Memphis, the forbidden pleasures of Beale Street had always come
wrapped in the pulsing rhythms of the blues. … Elvis’s [rock & roll] offered those pleasures long familiar to Memphians to a new audience” (emphasis added) (Larry Nager, Memphis Beat, p. 154).

“I believe in the transformative power of rock and roll …
this transformative power inheres not so much in the words of songs or the stances of the stars, but in the music itself--in the SOUND, and above all, in the BEAT” (emphasis in the original, Robert Palmer, Rock & Roll an Unruly History, p. 12).

“[Rock’s] wellsprings … are fundamentally African and African-American. …
The rhythm is spiritualized and the spirituality has a beat you can dance to” (Rock & Roll an Unruly History, p. 77).

Certain rhythms and their gradual acceleration play an important role [in the carousing lifestyle of the followers of the gods of licentiousness, Shiva, Pan, and Dionysus] … A very high level of sound is useful in inducing states of trance. … The dance and noise of the drums have the effect of creating a safety zone and of driving away ill-omened influences” (Alain Danielou, Shiva and Dionysus, cited by Rock & Roll an Unruly History, p. 149).

“… in traditional African music,
the rhythms themselves are a specific text” (John Chernoff, African Rhythm and African Sensibility, p. 75).

The rhythm is more important than the meaning of the words. Our gods respond to rhythm above all else” (a Macumba priestess in Brazil, cited by John Chernoff, African Rhythm and African Sensibility, p. 124).

“There is a clear parallel, certainly, between the aesthetic conception of multiple rhythms in music and the religious conception of multiple forces in the world” (John Chernoff,
African Rhythm and African Sensibility, p. 156).

When complaints were made about his erotic behavior onstage, Jimi Hendrix replied: “
Perhaps [my rock music] is sexy ... but what music with a big beat isn’t?” (Henderson, ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, p. 117).

Bluesman Robert Johnson said, “
This sound [the blues] affected most women in a way that I could never understand” (Guralnick, Searching for Robert Johnson, p. 59).

Professor Longhair’s licentious boogie-woogie piano
music caused women to “jump and wriggle” (Rock Lives, p. 18).

John Lennon said rock & roll gets through to people because of its voodoo beat: “Because it is primitive enough and has no bull, really, the best stuff, and it gets through to you its beat. Go to the jungle and
THEY HAVE THE RHYTHM and it goes throughout the world and it’s as simple as that” (Lennon, Rolling Stone, Feb. 12, 1976, p 100).

“Everywhere you look on the planet people are
using drums to alter consciousness. … I’ve discovered, along with many others, the extraordinary power of music, particularly percussion, to influence the human mind and body. . . . There have been many times when I’ve felt as if the drum has carried me to an open door into another world” (Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead, Drumming at the Edge of Magic, pp. 28, 30, 176).

Our word ‘ecstatic,’ which some people like to apply to African music, means literally from its Greek origins, ‘extended out of the state one was in,’ and the word could not be more inappropriate to describe African music in general” (John Chernoff, African Rhythm and African Sensibility, p. 141).

The ragtime piano music in whorehouses in such places as New Orleans, St. Louis, and Memphis, at the end of the 19th century, is described as “sexually syncopated sounds.” “Like the whorehouses in New Orleans and St. Louis, the Gayoso houses provided employment for Memphis’s early ragtime pianists … The Gayoso brothels gave many white Memphians their first dose of syncopation and the blues. Compared to the pallid ballads and sentimental ‘heart songs’ that the Victorian era offered, that ‘whorehouse music’ would have been exciting in any situation. Given the extra tang of forbidden fruit, of social and moral taboos being broken all around, those
SEXUALLY SYNCOPATED SOUNDS proved irresistible” (Larry Nager, Memphis Beat, p. 26). Newspapers labeled ragtime “vulgar, filthy, and suggestive” because of its dance rhythm and juke joint associations (The Death of Rhythm & Blues, p. 8).

Even as a teenager
B.B. King observed that the boogie-woogie rhythms in juke joints affected women sexually. He describes the night he first played a live performance at a blues club: “That night I couldn’t sleep for the pictures running through my head. Ladies were in the pictures, for sure. … My mind was alive with the sound of my own music and the way women had reacted to my voice, THEIR BODIES FLOWING TO A RHYTHM COMING OUT OF MY GUITAR…” (emphasis added) (Blues All Around Me, p. 117).

This frank description of the musings of a bluesman (most of which we cannot print) destroys the myth that blues/rock is innocent music that can be used by God’s people. It is sensual and worldly and devilish in its very rhythms, and the Bible forbids God’s people to associate with it.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what
is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).
“And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in
them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:15-17).

“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove
them” (Ephesians 5:11).

“Love not the world, neither the things
that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).

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