Rock Lyrics: Society & Culture

Full Course Title: 
Rock Lyrics: Society & Culture
Course Number: 
Section Number(s) and Day/Times Taught: 
147: MWF 11:00-11:50AM
Section Number(s) and Day/Times Taught: 
148: MWF 12:00-12:50PM
Fall 2017
The Arts

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.


Dixie Farthing has loved rock 'n roll as far back as her earliest memories of listening to her father's rock records on her little plastic record player. A standout early memory is listening to the 45 rpm 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 young life was the advent of the "British Invasion" of rock, led by the Beatles, the band she still considers to be the Number One greatest of all time. But don't be misled by this information: she loves current music as much as she does the sounds of the past. She is especially fond of Jack White, Lana Del Rey, Beck, Kanye West, Sam Smith, and a plethora of other artists whom you might enjoy yourself. She always stays open to new sounds and genres in the wide world of rock and pop and loves being introduced to artists by her students.

Dixie Farthing has been an editorial assistant at a newspaper; a bookseller; an editor at a publishing company; and a radio disc jockey. She earned her BA at ASU where she received the Graydon and Daisy Eggars Award for English majors.  She also graduated summa cum laude with an MA in English and has taught in the English Dept. here since 1982.

Contact FYS

The First Year Seminar is part of the General Education Program located in Anne Belk Hall, Room 250.

Phone: 828-262-2028

Our mailing address:
First Year Seminar
ASU Box 32065
Appalachian State University
Boone, NC 28608

Director of First Year Seminar:
Rick Klima

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