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Thread: Soft adult contemporary: why so prevalent and popular in the 1970s?

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Soft adult contemporary: why so prevalent and popular in the 1970s?

    Based on the other 1970s music threads going around, I thought it might be interesting to discuss a musical phenomenon that is firmly identified with the 1970s, even though it continues to this day: soft adult contemporary music. We're talking about bands and performers like Bread, The Carpenters, Carly Simon, Ambrosia, America, Captain and Tenille, Little River Band, Starland Vocal Band, Barry Manilow, Air Supply, Hall and Oates, and so on.

    What was it about the zeitgeist of the 1970s that caused adult contemporary music to be seen not as campy or weepy, but actually achieve widespread popularity? Who were the fans of such music? I'm guessing those that were too old to identify with the big bands and crooners that preceded rock and roll, but too old to feel an affinity for rock as the music of their generation.





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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    It was a reaction to the acid rock of the late 60s.

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    No clue but the first things that came to mind when I saw the thread title were The Carpenters and Bread.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

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    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    This Bear has one of the most diverse collections of music known to man (and woman)......but I just never placed the diamond on the grooves of these mentioned gems.

    Said better.....



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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I think AC's popularity just tends to come in waves and is usually an alternative to more extreme popular movements at the time. Disco, funk, acid rock, and heavy metal may have been too much for some people at the time, so thus you have the Carpenters.

    Look at the 1990s too. Whitney Houston, Kenny G, Michael Bolton, Amy Grant, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, sappy love ballads by Bryan Adams and Bon Jovi, and so forth. Now, granted, many of the artists like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Boyz II Men were more R&B influenced, but at the end of the day, they still produced some songs that were very popular on AC. At the same time though, you had the emergence of grunge music, rap, and hip-hop during this time period, that appealed to younger audiences, but was too extreme at the time for a general audience, and that's why many turned to AC. And country too. Can't forget about how big Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, and LeAnn Rimes were in the 90s.
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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Who were the fans of such music? I'm guessing those that were too old to identify with the big bands and crooners that preceded rock and roll, but too old to feel an affinity for rock as the music of their generation.
    I was in that generation. My parents were terrified of rock and roll. They were older than all my friends' parents, listening to Herb Alpert and Lawrence Welk. In the early 70's when I was in junior high our parents would not let us listen to the Stones, Clapton, etc but thought all the Carpenters, Bread type of music was OK. So that was what we got. Maybe some Beatles. It was frustrating. So no, it was not all older people, some of us in our early teens got stuck there.

    BTW, I still like Carly Simon. But I'm an old fart.

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I've actually wondered about this myself for some time. There was this period of almost reactionary tackiness that quickly followed the close of the 1960's. I think there are a couple of causes for this phenomenon:

    1. the 1970's was a tacky decade, as was the 1950's. The 'nostalgiac decade' falls along generational lines and is usually considered two decades previous. Music is only one area that we can see this tackiness parallel. Macrame wall hangings, polyester leisure suits, and avado green appliances are the direct descendents of hula girl lamps, poodle dresses, and jet age ash trays.

    2. producers of the television variety shows so popular in the 1970's were older, did not belong to the generation famously referenced by The Who, and possessed the tastes endemic to those born during the Depression. (life has never been the same for me since they cancelled the Mac Davis show).
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
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    "70s muzak

    I think lounge lizards had a lot to do with it. Anything to try to get laid.

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    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    I blame it all on John Travolta. Kotter should never should have let him out of the bubble.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

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    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
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    muzak

    Most if not all of the eras has similar s*it to listen to.
    '50s Doo Wop, How much was that doggie in the window
    '60s Pre Beatles girls groups, Dey do run run
    '40s A lot of big band stuff - Glen Miller and the ilk.

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    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    "...What was it about the zeitgeist of the 1970s that caused adult contemporary music to be seen not as campy or weepy..."

    I think it was the crushing of dissent by Nixon and the corporate war machine. The draft lottery removed the sails from the anti-war effort, along with the shootings at Kent State.

    Jimi was dead, as was Janis, not to mention Jim Croce!

    If not for Nixon's blatant crookedness Carter would never have been elected to give any pause to War, Inc.

    Today, what's been called our "fawning corporate media" are actually "embedded" with the troops, to issue strict party line.

    Like Don Maclean said, when the Chevy hit the levee the music died.

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    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by Tom R View post
    Most if not all of the eras has similar s*it to listen to.
    '40s A lot of big band stuff - Glen Miller and the ilk.
    Actually, big band was a jazz movement that was basically synonymous with swing music, only with bigger ensembles and more intricate arrangements than early-30's swing roots. Glenn Miller sort of hugged the line between legitimate jazz and "syncopated dance music", as my jazz history professor called it, of the day, which was basically a outgrowth of 1920's type popular music that adopted more syncopated rhythms and swung 8ths that the big band/swing movement created. Another key difference between the two is that true big band still had a good amount of improvisation underlying it and the arrangement served merely as a "guide" (think Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing") where the other pretty much stuck to its arrangement like any other orchestra would.

    Anyway, I guess my whole point was that big band shouldn't be lumped in as "s*it" with the likes of the Captain and Tenille.

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    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
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    muzak

    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    Off-topic:


    Anyway, I guess my whole point was that big band shouldn't be lumped in as "s*it" with the likes of the Captain and Tenille.
    Point well taken. Most of the musicianship was good. Some of it was sentimental pap.

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I was thinking about this today for some reason, actually wondering what happened to the adult contemporary genre as a whole. Why was this music so popular up into the 80s and early 90s and what caused it to go extinct?

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    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    I was thinking about this today for some reason, actually wondering what happened to the adult contemporary genre as a whole. Why was this music so popular up into the 80s and early 90s and what caused it to go extinct?
    People developed better taste musically. It's the schlock and the schmaltz of AC that turned me to punk/new wave/grunge/electonica and oddly, classical music.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    I was thinking about this today for some reason, actually wondering what happened to the adult contemporary genre as a whole. Why was this music so popular up into the 80s and early 90s and what caused it to go extinct?
    I'm not sure 'extinct' is the correct word. Maybe transformed or evolved. I get the impression "light jazz" may have stepped in to fill this important cultural role...you know music that's inoffensive, melodic, familiar to the point of being anti-innovative
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I'm not sure 'extinct' is the correct word. Maybe transformed or evolved. I get the impression "light jazz" may have stepped in to fill this important cultural role...you know music that's inoffensive, melodic, familiar to the point of being anti-innovative
    Lawrence Welk retired in 1982.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

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    Cyburbian
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    I will say it loud and proud: I FREAKING LOVE 1970s SOFT ROCK. It is the best. (for reference, I was born in '78). My mom had the most epic vinyl collection: Bread, Cat Stevens, Chicago, Carpenters, and dozens more. I have no idea why nobody makes music like that anymore, but few things make me feel as happy and content as some '70s lite rock.

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    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by andromeda View post
    I will say it loud and proud: I FREAKING LOVE 1970s SOFT ROCK. It is the best. (for reference, I was born in '78). My mom had the most epic vinyl collection: Bread, Cat Stevens, Chicago, Carpenters, and dozens more. I have no idea why nobody makes music like that anymore, but few things make me feel as happy and content as some '70s lite rock.
    Preach! Let me add Air Supply, Manilow, let's not forget Leo Sayer. Very under appreciated. It has it's place in the world, right? And it's place was in the background of some important moments in the lives of kids born in the 70's (71 here).
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

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    Cyburbian
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    On the radio this weekend they had the AT Top 40 from 1975 and my wife and I were listening to it. We both said "what is this crap" several times. It's like the faint background violins ruined everything.

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