Counterculture can mean a lot of things. Most people associate it with the cultural phenomenon that occurred between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s in the western world. The greatest example happened in the USA, with the struggle for civil rights and the mobilization against the Vietnam War. The movement embedded discussions about how society was structured and tried to propose new ideas. The respect for sexual orientation and women’s rights, alongside the use of psychoactive drugs were elements that made hippie movement happen.
But counterculture can also be any process that somehow challenges and breaks the moral of their time, even having revolutionary potential – but not in the military way: usually, it is accompanied with creative cultural productions expressed by art. It is easy to recognize that when dark times arrive, art flourishes as a gateway to overcoming difficulties.
Some might say that counterculture is dead, but let’s see about that…
David Bowie. T-Rex. Slade. Roxy Music. That’s all people talk about glam rock. They forget about Jobriath, a singer that put in the spotlight a universe that most people wanted to ignore. Self-proclaimed the “true fairy of rock n’ roll”, he was the first openly gay rock musician to be signed to a major record label, helping to pave the way for other queer artists. Today his two albums are considered cult classics, but at the time they were pretty much snubbed. The world wasn’t ready for Jobriath. To survive, he even recurred to prostitution but died in 1983 semi-obscured from AIDS. He was only 36 years old.
- X-Ray Spex
Poly Styrene screamed at the top of her lungs to be heard and inspired a lot of girls to do the same. The Riot Grrrl movement in the ’90s wouldn’t even have existed if it wasn’t for her. Being the leader of X-Ray Spex and a mixed-race woman, Poly used her music to fight against sexism and racism not only in the traditional society but also in the punk movement itself, which was very male-oriented and white. Her lyrics also criticized patriarchalism, consumerism, and the patterns imposed by capitalism.
- Os Mutantes
Experimental and eccentrics, they made their own musical instruments and sound effects, besides being pioneers in mixing rock n’ roll with Brazilian and classical music. With the help of super distorted guitars, Os Mutantes talked about sex and drugs using puns and allegories to dodge the military censorship in Brazil — although they were obliged many times to change their lyrics considered “subversives”. The freedom they preached was an enemy of the dictatorship.
The deep-voiced german singer was immortalized in the classic record she made with The Velvet Underground in 1967, full of way too obscured songs for a colored decade. But Nico is much, much more than that. Her solo career allowed the darkness within to unveil. The lyrics dealt with human fragility; the sound was experimental and obscure, with influences that went from electronic to german medieval music. She always wore black clothing, combined with heavy boots and makeup. That’s why Nico is primordial to the birth of goth rock, in the late-70s.
- MC Rebecca
MC Rebecca sings about sexual expression and female pleasure in a world dominated by men, the so-called “proibidão” (not allowed to underage people) — one of the many subdivisions of Funk Carioca. Born in the Brazilian favelas, it was never treated like culture, but a crime. The bailes (as it’s called the parties) are constant targets of police repression. The genre itself almost became criminalized in 2017. With MC Rebecca’s success, she not only brings a different narrative but also helps Funk to be more respected — even with clean versions of her songs.
These are artists who have made and continue to make a huge change in some old paradigms that exist even in protest songs. The counterculture was not something that existed only in the past but persists to this day through new and different forms of manifestation and expression.
The article above was edited by Larissa Mariano.
Liked this type of content? Check Her Campus Casper Libero’s home page for more!