Classic Rock in the Year of Revolt: Using the Illusion of Life to Examine the Hits of 1968


Author: Thomas G. Endres, University of Northern Colorado, USA
Published: November 2, 2018

Citation: Endres, T. G. (2018). Classic Rock in the Year of Revolt: Using the Illusion of Life to Examine the Hits of 1968. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 5(2).


This is not the first generation facing a fearful future. Exactly fifty years ago, 1968 – nestled between the Summer of Love (’67) and Woodstock (’69) - was known as the year of revolt. From Vietnam protests and Civil Rights marches, to the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, American culture, like that of countries around the world, was awash in struggle yet alive in activist ideology. In particular, Classic Rock of the era served as a reflection of the times, a call to action, and eventually offered enduring insight into the qualities of effective protest music. Using Sellnow’s Illusion of Life methodology, which examines music as rhetoric, this essay analyses the top ten hits of that year (per, including such timeless masterpieces as Joplin’s “Piece of my Heart,” Cream’s “White Room,” Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,” and the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” The humanistic methodology begins by identifying first the patterns found in the songs’ virtual time (music) and virtual experience (lyrics). Analysis then delves into the use of strategies such as congruity and incongruity to get across meaning. Interpretations are offered on the impact such works had on their original generation, and concludes with applications for today.


Sellnow, illusion of life, music, classic rock, 1968