California was once a small and remote outpost in the middle of the vast and untamed American West. Over time, it has become one of the most influential states in the country, leading cultural trends and shaping pop culture.
California is the most populous state in the United States and has been a dominant force in American culture for decades. Read more in detail here: history of california.
The Eagles were too relaxed, Debbie shone brightly in our life, and Bruce (the shark) terrified us to death.
The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television, and Politics: Rock Me on the Water (1974)
Senior editor of the Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein, makes a strong argument that Los Angeles has never dominated popular culture as completely as it did in the mid-1970s.
L.A.-based artists were recreating the mainstream in the image of the counterculture of five years before in every area of popular entertainment. Popular music merged genres and became more introspective.
While questioning the dominant wisdom, television and cinema offered a more inclusive patchwork of American faces and voices. Politics became more personal as a means of expressing one’s personality and vision for the natural and social environment.
In 1974, Linda Ronstadt was at the height of her fame, performing at the Berkeley (Calif.) Community Theatre. (July 18, 1974, KMET Los Angeles)
Inroads by the previously avant garde studded daily life, whether the auteurs were Roman Polanski and Francis Ford Coppola at the movie, Carroll O’Connor and Alan Alda on television, the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt on turntables, or Tom Bradley and Jerry Brown on ballots.
And, according to Brownstein, they were all headquartered in Los Angeles—at least for a little while in New York. The era of Hollywood blockbusters like Jaws, nostalgic comedies like Happy Days, Debbie Boone illuminating our lives, and Ronald Reagan was on the horizon.
By 1974, Los Angeles had provided an alternative cultural dynamo to a nation that was quickly losing confidence in traditional institutional and social sources of power.
While Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, whose lives and work Brownstein deftly portrays, did not succeed in changing politics in the traditional sense, they did change cultural politics.
Los Angeles-based mass entertainment cast a critical eye on the American Dream while glamorizing hedonisms just a few years before it was considered the lotus-eating realm of renegades.
Angelenos in “the business” had, in fact, discovered a location where they could both make a statement and relax.
Rock Me on the Water goes beyond gratitude and affirmation. Many other excellent books have been written on this period and area, including John Einarson’s Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock in 2001 and Mark Harris’s Pictures at a Revolution in 2009.
Rock Me examines the era’s entertainment industry, in part via interviews with Fonda, Ronstadt, and Peter Bogdanovich, among many other people mentioned in the book.
Brownstein elucidates the pervasive influence of an old boys’ network, which prevented women from working in front of the camera.
Treva Silverman, well known for her work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, appears in one of the outstanding passages. Silverman was the first woman to win an Emmy for writing in 1974 for an episode in which Lou Grant’s wife abandons him.
Male producers often paired female authors with male co-writers at the time, and for many years thereafter. Silverman describes her effort to establish a profession in this environment as a witness.
She gives the reader a bird’s-eye view of the battle for female characters in the MTM writers’ room, as she fought to give them more depth and nuance than their male counterparts—and, to some extent, Moore himself, who largely deferred to the writers’ interpretations of characters—initially imagined.
Silverman was ultimately able to recast heroine Mary Richards as a woman who was often conflicted as she negotiated the series’ changing social landscape.
Rock Me on the Water is a fascinating examination of a cultural moment that readers will recognize. It is beautifully written and filled with wonderful tales and tidbits.
Brownstein, on the other hand, gives Black popular culture in Los Angeles scant shrift. A chapter discusses blaxploitation films, however the author skips a beat while describing Motown Records’ move to Los Angeles.
Motown’s departure from Detroit symbolized the westward trajectory of American entertainment more than any other single event, but Brownstein portrays it as part of Barry Gordy’s largely unsuccessful attempt to break into the movie business, rather than as illustrating LA’s new status as the launch pad for all things cutting edge.
Regardless, Rock Me on the Water is one of the most captivating novels about popular culture this year. It accomplishes the unusual accomplishment of becoming required reading on its topic right away. — Clayton Trutor is an instructor at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, where he teaches history.
The University of Nebraska Press will publish his book Loserville: How Professional Sports Remade Atlanta and Atlanta Remade Professional Sports in September.
The california in the 1900s is a story of how California came to dominate American culture.