Rock Lyrics: Society and Culture

Rock music is both a social and cultural force, as well as a means of personal and poetic expression. Every day we are exposed to popular music and might even find ourselves singing along to songs on our iPods, CD players, or radios. What if we had the opportunity and means to delve deeper into these same lyrics, exploring them critically, analyzing their use of poetic language, discovering the social and cultural influences that shaped the lives of the songwriters, and then applying those same critical skills in making sense of our day-to-day lives? In our class, each of you will develop your own set of criteria in determining the meaning and worth of rock lyrics as art and social commentary. You will exchange views with your peers, see what you have in common with other members of the class in terms of your sensibilities and tastes, and will see the world through someone else's perspective. We will also examine a critical issue from a global point of view, where we will research rock music and lyrics from bands originating from other countries and cultures. Our Global Rock Muse will be the Clash's Joe Strummer, who was born to Scottish and Armenian parents in Ankara, Turkey; was raised there as well as in Tehran, Iran; Cairo; Mexico City; London; and Blantyre and Malawi in Southern Africa. Joe was "global" before the concept became popular. Lastly, the experience of bringing artists and listeners together as members of a community is a return to the ritual power of the word, to poetry that first began in song, and to a force that unites us in revealing our interior and collective truths. As art, and as social and cultural constructs, rock lyrics serve as a natural gateway to a larger world.

Course Details
Course Number: 
Section Number(s) and Day/Times Taught: 
124: MWF 11:00am-11:50am
141: MWF 12:00pm-12:50pm
147: MWF 1:00pm-1:50pm
Fall 2024
The Arts

Dixie Farthing

Dixie Farthing has loved rock 'n roll as far back as her earliest memories of listening to her dad's rock records on her portable plastic record player. A standout early memory is listening to the 45rpm single of Bo Diddley's "Say Man" over and over again; she didn't know then, nor did anyone, that this song would become known decades later as the first rap record. A highlight of her childhood was the advent of the "British Invasion" of rock in the winter of 1964, led by the Beatles, the band she considers to be the Greatest Rock Band of All Time. (And no, they were not a "boy band"—they were a "bar band.") She is also a fan of 21st century artists such as Jack White, Lana Del Rey, Billie Eilish, Tame Impala, Radiohead, The War on Drugs, Beck, and Amy Winehouse. She loves to be introduced to new artists by her students.

Dixie Farthing has been an editorial assistant at a newspaper; a bookseller in Chicago; an editor at a publishing company; and a disc jockey for AM and FM radio stations. She earned her BA in English at ASU where she received the Graydon and Daisy Eggers Award. She graduated summa cum laude with an MA in English, has taught in the ASU English Dept. for 30 years, and loves teaching First Year Seminar.