Defiance or escapism?

I was trying to write a sensible comment to a piece on Medium, It’s Time We Tell the Truth about the Rolling Stones, when I came across a stunning essay by Margo Jefferson.

Ripping Off Black Music, published in 1973 in Harper’s Magazine. Yes, literally stunning at times:

When Chuck Berry sings, “Roll Over Beethoven/Dig these rhythm ‘n’ blues!” it is an outlaw’s challenge to white culture. When the Beatles sing their version, it has the sweet naughtiness of Peter Pan crowing “I Won’t Grow Up.”

Brilliant. Not necessarily true – and probably unfair to the Beatles – but brilliant. There was something deeply escapist about the rock ‘n’ roll explosion and expansion in Britain. I’m thinking of the “back to the nursery” motif in British literature from the Victorian and Edwardian periods and wondering if there might be any connection.

But what to make of rock ‘n’ roll’s popularity to the east of the Iron Curtain? Was it escapism? To some degree, undoubtedly. Was it a challenge to Soviet (Soviet-imposed) culture? Definitely.

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